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C.  SCHUT,  D.D., 

Censor  Deputatus. 



Vic.  Gen. 
Westmonasterii,  die  23  Novembris,  1914- 











BROADWAY   HOUSE,   68-74   CARTER   LANE,   E.G. 


"  His  most  elaborate  and  systematic  biography  ...  is  not  merely  a  book  to  be 
reckoned  with  ;  it  is  one  with  which  we  cannot  dispense,  if  only  for  its  minute 
examination  of  Luther's  theological  writings." — The  Athenaeum  (Vol.  I). 

"The  second  volume  of  Dr.  Grisar's  'Life  of  Luther'  is  fully  as  interesting  as  the 
first.  There  is  the  same  minuteness  of  criticism  and  the  same  width  of  survey." 

The  Athenaium  (Vol.  II). 

"  Its  interest  increases.  As  we  see  the  great  Reformer  in  the  thick  of  his  work, 
and  the  heyday  of  his  life,  the  absorbing  attraction  of  his  personality  takes  hold  ot 
us  more  and  more  strongly.  His  stupendous  force,  his  amazing  vitality,  his  super 
human  interest  in  life,  impress  themselves  upon  us  with  redoubled  effect.  We  find 
him  the  most  multiform,  the  most  paradoxical  of  men.  .  .  .  The  present  volume, 
which  is  admirably  translated,  deals  rather  with  the  moral,  social,  and  personal  side 
of  Luther's  career  than  with  his  theology." — The  Athenceum  (Vol.  III). 

"There  is  no  room  for  any  sort  of  question  as  to  the  welcome  ready  among 
English-speaking  Roman  Catholics  for  this  admirably  made  translation  of  the  first 
volume  of  the  German  monograph  by  Professor  Grisar  on  the  protagonist  of  the 
Reformation  in  Europe.  .  .  .  The  book  is  so  studiously  scientific,  so  careful  to  base  its 
teaching  upon  documents,  and  so  determined  to  eschew  controversies  that  are  only 
theological,  that  it  cannot  but  deeply  interest  Protestant  readers. "—  The  Scotsman. 

"  Father  Grisar  has  gained  a  high  reputation  in  this  country  through  the  translation 
of  his  monumental  work  on  the  History  of  Rome  and  the  Popes  in  the  Middle  Ages, 
and  this  first  instalment  of  his  '  Life  of  Luther'  bears  fresh  witness  to  his  unwearied 
industry,  wide  learning,  and  scrupulous  anxiety  to  be  impartial  in  his  judgments  as 
well  as  absolutely  accurate  in  matters  of  fact." — Glasgow  Herald. 

"  This  '  Life  of  Luther '  is  bound  to  become  standard  ...  a  model  of  every  literary, 
critical,  and  scholarly  virtue." — The  Month. 

"Like  its  two  predecessors,  Volume  III  excels  in  the  minute  analysis  not  merely  of 
Luther's  actions,  but  also  of  his  writings;  indeed,  this  feature  is  the  outstanding 
merit  of  the  author's  patient  labours." — The  Irish  Times. 

"  This  third  volume  of  Father  Grisar's  monumental  '  Life '  is  full  of  interest  for  the 
theologian.  And  not  less  for  the  psychologist ;  for  here  more  than  ever  the  author 
allows  himself  to  probe  into  the  mind  and  motives  and  understanding  of  Luther,  so 
as  to  get  at  the  significance  of  his  development." — The  Tablet. 


CHAPTER  XXI.     PRINCELY  MARRIAGES     .  .     pages  3-79 



The  case  of  Henry  VIII  ;  Robert  Barnes  is  despatched  to 
Wittenberg  ;  Luther  proposes  bigamy  as  a  safer  expedient 
than  divorce  (1531)  ;  Melanchthon's  advice  :  Tutissimum 
est  regi  to  take  a  second  spouse.  The  conduct  of  Pope 
Clement  VII.  The  Protestant  Princes  of  Germany  endeavour 
to  secure  the  goodwill  of  the  King  of  England  ;  final  collapse 
of  the  negotiations  ;  Luther's  later  allusions  to  Henry  VIII 

pages  3-13 


The  question  put  by  Philip  to  Luther  in  1526  ;  Philip  well 
informed  as  to  Luther's  views.  Bucer  deputed  by  the  Land 
grave  to  secure  the  sanction  of  Wittenberg  for  his  projected 
bigamy  ;  Bucer's  mission  crowned  with  success  ;  Philip 
weds  Margaret  von  der  Sale  ;  Luther's  kindly  offices  re 
warded  by  a  cask  of  wine  ;  the  bigamy  becomes  known  at 
the  Court  of  Dresden  ;  the  Landgrave  is  incensed  by  Bucer's 
proposal  that  he  should  deny  having  committed  bigamy. 
Luther  endeavours  to  retire  behind  the  plea  that  his  per 
mission  was  a  "  dispensation,"  a  piece  of  advice  given  "  in 
confession,"  and,  accordingly,  not  to  be  alleged  in  public. 
Some  interesting  letters  of  Luther  to  his  sovereign  and  to 
Hesse  ;  his  private  utterances  on  the  subject  recorded  in  the 
Table-Talk.  "  Si  queam  mutare  !  "  The  Eisenach  Confer 
ence  ;  Luther  counsels  the  Landgrave  to  tell  a  good,  lusty 
lie  ;  the  Landgrave's  annoyance.  Melanchthon's  worries  ;  an 
expurgated  letter  of  his  on  Landgrave  Philip.  Duke  Henry 
of  Brunswick  enters  the  field  against  Luther  and  the  Land 
grave  ;  Luther's  stinging  reply  :  "  Wider  Hans  Worst." 
Johann  Lening's  "  Dialogue  "  ;  how  it  was  regarded  by 
Luther,  Menius  and  the  Swiss  theologians.  The  Hessian 
bigamy  is  hushed  up.  The  Bigamy  judged  by  Protestant 
opinion  ;  Luther's  consent  to  some  extent  extorted  under 
pressure  ........  pages  12-79 

CHAPTER  XXII.     LUTHER  AND  LYING  pages  80-178 


Luther's  conduct  in  the  matter  of  the  Bigamy  an  excuse 
for  the  present  chapter.  His  dishonest  assurances  in  his 
letters  to  Leo  X,  to  Bishop  Scultetus  his  Ordinary,  and  to 
the  Emperor  Charles  V  (1518-1520)  ;  his  real  feelings  at 
that  time  as  shown  in  a  letter  to  Spalatin  ;  Luther's  later 


parody  of  Tetzel's  teaching  ;  his  insinuation  that  it  was 
the  Emperor's  intention  to  violate  the  safe-conduct  granted  ; 
ho  calls  into  question  the  authenticity  of  the  Papal  Bull 
against  him,  whilst  all  the  time  knowing  it  to  be  genuine  ; 
he  advises  ordinandi  to  promise  celibacy  with  a  mental 
reservation  ;  his  distortion  of  St.  Bernard's  "  perdite  vixi  "  ; 
his  allusion  to  the  case  of  Conradin,  "slain  by  Pope  Clement 
IV,"  and  to  the  spurious  letter  of  St.  Ulrich  on  the  babies' 
heads  found  in  a  convent  pond  at  Rome.  His  allegation  that 
his  "  Artickel  "  had  been  subscribed  to  at  Schmalkalden  ; 
his  unfairness  to  Erasmus  and  Duke  George ;  his  statement, 
that,  for  a  monk  to  leave  his  cell  without  his  scapular,  was 
accounted  a  mortal  sin,  and  that,  in  Catholicism,  people 
expected  to  be  saved  simply  by  works ;  his  advocacy  of  the 
"  Gospel-proviso  "  ;  his  advice  to  the  Bishop  of  Samland  to 
make  a  show  of  hesitation  in  forsaking  Catholicism  .  pages  80-99 


Bucer,  Miinzer,  J.  Agricola,  Erasmus,  Duke  George,  etc., 
on  Luther's  disregard  for  truth  ....  pages  99-102 



The  palpable  untruth  of  certain  statements  which  Luther 
never  tires  of  repeating.  How  to  explain  his  putting  forward 
as  true  what  was  so  manifestly  false  :  The  large  place 
occupied  by  the  jocular  element  ;  his  tendency  to  extrava 
gance  of  language  ;  he  comes,  by  dint  of  repetition,  to 
persuade  himself  of  the  truth  of  his  charges.  The  new 
theology  of  mendacity  :  Luther's  earlier  views  consistent 
with  the  Church's ;  study  of  the  Old  Testament  leads  him 
to  the  theory  that  only  such  untruths  as  injure  our  neigh 
bour  are  real  lies  ;  influence  of  his  teaching  on  the  theo 
logians  of  his  circle  :  Melanchthon,  Bucer,  Bugenhagen, 
Capito,  etc.  .......  pages  102-116 



Luther's  distortions  of  the  actual  state  of  things  before  his 
coming ;  admissions  of  modern  scholars.  The  olden 
Catholics'  supposed  "holiness-by-works";  on  the  relations 
between  creature  and  Creator ;  the  Lamb  of  God  ;  the 
Eucharistic  sacrifice  ;  "  personal  religion  "  ;  Luther's  plea 
that  he  revived  respect  for  the  secular  calling  ;  the  olden 
teaching  concerning  perfection  .  .  .  pages  116-131 



Luther's  claim  to  be  the  saviour  of  woman  and  matri 
mony  ;  what  he  says  of  the  Pope's  treatment  of  marriage  ; 
marriage  "  a  state  of  sin  "  ;  witnesses  to  the  contrary  : 
Devotional  and  Liturgical  books ;  Luther's  own  attachment 
in  his  younger  days  to  St.  Anne.  Various  statements  of 
Luther's  to  the  advantage  or  otherwise  of  woman  and  the 
married  life  ;  his  alteration  of  outlook  during  the  contro 
versy  on  the  vow  of  Chastity  ;  the  natural  impulse,  and  the 
honour  of  marriage  ;  expressions  ill-befitting  one  whc 


aspired  to  deliver  womankind ;  practical  consequences  of  the 
new  view  of  woman  :  Matrimonial  impsdiments  and  divorce  ; 
Duke  George  on  the  saying  "  If  the  wife  refuse  then  let  the 
maid  come."  Respect  for  the  female  sex  in  Luther's  con 
versations.  The  new  matrimonial  conditions  and  the 
slandered  opponents  ;  the  actual  state  of  things  in  Late 
Mediaeval  times  as  vouched  for  in  the  records.  Two  con 
cluding  pictures  towards  the  history  of  woman  :  A  preacher's 
matrimonial  trials  ;  the  letters  of  Hasenberg  and  von  der 
Heyden  and  the  "  New-Zeittung  "  and  "  Newe  Fabel  " 
which  they  called  forth  .....  pages  131-178 

ERASMUS  (1534,  1536)  AND  DUKE  GEORGE  (t  1539) 

pages  179-193 


Their  relations  since  1525;  the  "  Hyperaspistes  "  ;  Luther's 
attack  in  1534  and  Erasmus's  "  Purgatio  "  ;  Luther  on  the 
end  of  Erasmus  ......  pages  179-186 


Luther  exhorts  the  Duke  to  turn  Protestant ;  the  Duke's 
answer  ;  how  George  had  to  suffer  at  Luther's  hands  ;  his 
true  character  utterly  at  variance  with  Luther's  picture  ;  the 
Duke  repays  Luther  in  his  own  coin  .  .  .  pages  187-193 


pages  194-227 


The  Duchy  of  Saxony  ;  the  Electorate  of  Brandenburg  ; 
the  Duchy  of  Prussia  ;  Wurtemberg  ;  Duke  Ulrich  and 
Luther ;  Blaurer  and  Schnepf  ;  the  sad  state  of  things 
revealed  ;  the  Landgraviate  of  Hesse  ;  results  of  Landgrave 
Philip's  bad  example  .  ....  pages  194-202 


The  Electorate  of  Saxony  ;  the  morals  of  Elector  Johann 
Frederick  ;  the  character  of  his  predecessors  ;  Luther's 
relations  with  them  ;  the  records  of  the  Visitations  ;  Luther 
compares  himself  to  Lot  dwelling  in  Sodom  .  pages  202—210 


His  candid  admissions  ;  his  varied  explanations  of  the 
state  of  things  :  The  malice  of  Satan  ;  the  apparent  increase 
of  evil  due  to  the  bright  light  of  the  Evangel  ;  his  seeming 
lack  of  success  the  best  proof  of  the  truth  of  his  mission  ; 
Luther  on  Wittenberg  and  its  doings  .  .  pages  210-218 


The  habitual  depression  in  which  zealous  promoters  of  the 
Evangel  lived  ;  Melanchthon,  Spalatin,  Jonas,  Camerarius, 
etc.,  ;  the  increase  in  the  number  of  suicides  ;  expectation 
of  the  end  of  all  ;  the  sad  case  of  Johann  Schlaginhaufen 

pages  218-227 


FEATURES pages  228-283 


Relations  with  the  Wittenberg  students  ;  esteem  in  which 
Luther  was  held  by  them  ;  he  warns  them  against  consorting 
with  evil  women.  The  Preacher  and  Catechist ;  the  force 
and  practical  bearing  of  Luther's  sermons  ;  his  instructions 
to  others  how  best  to  preach  ;  his  discourses  at  home  ;  the 
notes  of  his  sermons  ;  what  he  says  of  Our  Lady  when 
preaching  on  the  Magnificat  ;  his  staunch  fidelity  to  the  great 
doctrines  of  Christianity  and  his  attachment  to  Holy  Scrip 
ture  ;  the  fine  qualities  of  his  German  as  evinced  in  his 
translations  and  elsewhere.  The  spiritual  guide  ;  his 
concern  for  discipline  ;  his  circular  letters  ;  his  strictures  on 
certain  legends  ;  his  efforts  to  re-introduce  a  new  form  of 
confession  and  to  further  the  cause  of  Church-music  pages  228-257 


The  place  of  feeling  in  Luther's  life  ;  an  interview  with 
Cochlseus  ;  his  powerful  fancy  and  still  more  powerful  will ; 
his  huge  capacity  for  work  ....  pages  257-261 



The  better  side  of  the  Table-Talk  ;  his  friends  and  pupils 
on  his  kindly  ways  ;  his  disinterestedness,  love  of  simplicity, 
his  generosity,  his  courage  when  plague  threatened  ;  his 
occasional  belittling  of  his  own  powers  ;  his  prayer  and  his 
trust  in  God  ;  his  lack  of  any  real  organising  talent.  Luther's 
family  life  ;  his  allusions  to  his  wife  ;  his  care  for  his  children 

pages  261-283 


A  COUNTERPART  OF  HIS  SOUL       .          .      pages  284-350 



Sir  Thomas  More  on  Luther's  language.  Three  writings 
launched  against  the  Jews  ;  the  place  of  the  pig  and  donkey 
in  Luther's  stable  of  metaphor.  Luther's  animus  against  the 
Lawyers  due  to  their  attachment  to  the  matrimonial  legisla 
tion  as  then  established.  His  attack  on  the  Princes  in  his 
"  Von  welltlicher  Uberkeytt  "  ;  his  ire  against  Albert, 
Elector  of  Mayence  ;  his  list  of  the  archbishop's  relics  ;  how 
the  Duke  of  Brunswick  fared  ....  pages  284-295 



The  Pope  is  the  "  Beast  "  and  the  "  Dragon  "  ;  Luther's 
language  in  the  Table-Talk,  and  in  the  Disputation  in  1539  : 
on  the  Papal  Bearwolf  (Werewolf)  ;  the  Papal  Antichrist ; 
Luther's  wrath  against  all  who  dared  to  stand  up  for  the  Pope  ; 
how  the  Pope  deserves  to  be  addressed  .  .  pages  295-305 



His  ungovernable  temper  ;  reality  of  certain  misuses 
against  which  he  thundered  ;  his  vexation  with  those  who, 
like  Carlstadt  and  Zwingli,  seemed  to  be  robbing  him  of  the 
credit  which  was  his  due  ;  his  tendency  to  be  carried  away 
by  the  power  of  his  own  tongue  ;  his  need  for  the  stimulus 
and  outlet  provided  by  vituperation  ;  his  ill-humour  at  the 
smallness  of  the  moral  results  obtained  ;  abuse  serves  to 
repress  his  own  troubles  of  conscience.  Connection  of 
Luther's  abusiveness  with  his  mystic  persuasion  of  his  special 
call ;  all  his  anger  really  directed  against  the  devil ;  it  is  no 
insult  "  to  call  a  turnip  a  turnip."  The  unpleasant  seasoning 
of  Luther's  abuse  ;  some  samples  ;  was  language  of  so 
coarse  a  character  at  all  usual  at  that  time  ?  Indignation  of 
the  Swiss  .......  pages  306-326 


His  occasional  professions  of  humility ;  a  number  of 
typical  sayings  of  Luther  referring  to  his  peculiar  standing 
and  his  achievements  :  The  predictions  fulfilled  in  him  ;  the 
poverty  of  the  exegesis  of  the  Fathers  ;  his  reforms  more  far- 
reaching  than  those  of  any  Councils  ;  his  being  alone  no 
better  argument  against  him  than  against  the  Old-Testa 
ment  Prophets,  who  also  stood  up  against  the  whole  world. 
Harnack's  dilemma  :  Was  Luther  a  megalomaniac,  or  were 
his  achievements  commensurate  with  his  claims  ?  His  habit 
of  giving  free  rein  to  his  "  rhetoric  "  ;  its  tendency  to 
extravagance,  unseemliness,  and,  occasionally,  to  rank 
blasphemy  ;  "  papist  and  donkey  is  one  and  the  same, 
sic  volo,  sic  iubeo  "  ;  his  rhetoric  a  true  mirror  of  his  inward 
state  ;  his  changeableness  ;  his  high  opinion  of  himself  to 
some  extent  fostered  by  the  adulation  of  his  friends  pages  327-350 


DEFENDERS  OF  THE  CHURCH       .          .     pages  351-386 


Hostile  contemporaries  ascribe  Luther's  ravings  to  the 
devil,  others  actually  hold  him  to  be  beset  by  the  devil ; 
references  to  his  eyes  ;  the  idle  tale  of  his  having  been 
begotten  of  the  devil  .....  pages  351-359 


Their  opinion  of  Luther  and  Luther's  opinion  of  them  ; 
Egranus,  Zasius,  Wicel  and  Amerbach  .  .  pages  360-365 



The  Preface  of  Cochlseus  to  his  "  Commentaria  de  actis, 
etc.,  M.  L.";  the  sermons  of  Wild,  the  Mayence  Franciscan,  and 
the  complaints  laid  before  the  Diet,  at  Ratisbon  (1541)  and 
Worms  (1545)  pages  365-369 


Was  Luther  really  dragged  into  controversy  by  the  tactics 
of  his  opponents  ?  A  retrospect  :  The  character  of  the 
writings  of  Tetzel  and  Priei  ias ;  Emser ;  Eck  and  his 
"  Obelisks  "  ;  his  "  Enchiridion  "  ;  Cochlseus's  "  Septiceps 
Lutherus  "  ;  other  champions  of  the  Church  .  pages  370-386 





Liberty  for  the  examination  of  Scripture  and  Luther's 
autonomy  ;  Luther  gradually  reaches  the  standpoint  that 
the  Bible  is  the  only  judge  in  matters  of  faith  ;  those  only 
must  be  listened  to  who  teach  "  purum  verbum  Dei." 
Experience  given  by  the  Spirit ;  divergent  utterances 
regarding  the  perspicuity  of  Holy  Writ ;  the  Bible  a  "  heresy- 
book."  Luther  not  in  favour  of  verbal  inspiration  ;  mistakes 
of  the  yacred  writers  ;  which  books  are  canonical,  and  why  ? 
The  discord  which  followed  on  Luther's  principle  of  relying 
on  private  judgment  and  the  "  influxus  spirilus "  ;  he 
reverts  to  the  "  outward  Word  "  in  his  controversy  with 
Zwingli  and  corroborates  it  by  tradition.  What  authority, 
apart  from  the  Church's,  can  lay  doubts  to  rest  ?  The 
object  of  faith  :  Many  articles,  or  only  one  ?  Protestants 
on  Luther's  self-contradictions  ;  the  end  of  Luther's 
"  formal  principle  "  .  .  .  .  .  pages  387-420 


Some  characteristic  of  Luther's  exegesis  ;  his  respect  for 
the  literal  sense  ;  all  his  reading  of  the  Bible  coloured  by  his 
theory  of  Justification  ;  his  exegesis  in  the  light  of  his  early 
development  .......  pages  420-431 



Connection  between  the  "  material  principle  "  (justifica 
tion)  and  the  "  formal  principle  "  (Scripture  a?  the  only 
rule)  of  Luther's  theology,  and  between  the  "  material 
principle  "  and  the  theory  of  the  worthlessness  of  works  and 
of  God's  being  the  sole  real  agent ;  the  theory  at  variance 
with  the  teaching  of  St.  Augustine.  The  need  of  strugg  ing 
to  feel  entirely  certain  of  our  personal  justification  ;  Luther's 
own  failure  to  come  up  to  his  standard ;  present-day  Protes 
tants  on  Luther's  main  Article  "  on  which  the  Church  stands 
or  falls  "  .......  pages  431-449 


The  Church's  teaching  ;  origin  of  Luther's  new  ideas  to  be 
sought  in  his  early  dislike  for  the  "  Little  Saints  "  and  their 
doings  ;  the  perils  of  his  theory  ;  on  the  fear  of  God  as  a 
motive  for  action.  Augustine  summoned  as  a  witness  on 
Luther's  behalf ;  the  witness  discarded  by  Melanchthon  and 
the  Pomeranians  ;  Augustine's  real  view  ;  the  new  doctrine 
judged  by  16th-century  Protestants  ;  Luther's  utterances 
in  favour  of  good  works  ;  what  charity  meant  in  the  Middle 
Ages  ;  Luther  on  the  hospitals  of  Florence  .  .  pages  449-481 


Luther  no  systematic  theologian.  The  regula  fidei ; 
Harnack  on  Luther's  inconsequence  ;  Paulsen  on  '  •  Pope 
Luther."  Luther's  teaching  on  the  sacraments;  on  infant- 
baptism  and  the  faith  it  requires ;  liberal  Protestants 


appeal  to  his  principles  against  the  "  magical  "  theory  of 
Baptism  ;  penance  an  extension  of  baptism.  Luther's 
teaching  on  the  Supper  ;  Communion  merely  a  means  of 
fortifying  faith  ;  Impanation  versus  Transubstaiitiation  ; 
theory  of  the  omnipresence  of  Christ's  body  ;  Luther's  stead 
fastness  in  his  belief  in  the  Real  Presence.  Attitude  towards 
the  invocation  of  the  Saints,  particularly  of  the  Blessed 
Virgin.  His  views  on  Purgatory  .  .  .  pages  482-506 


The  place  of  this  sacrifice  in  the  Church  previous  to 
Luther's  time  ;  Luther's  first  attacks  ;  the  Mass  suppressed 
at  Wittenberg  ;  his  "  Von  dem  Grewel  der  Stillmesse  "  ; 
Eck's  reply  ;  Luther  undertakes  to  prove  that  the  priests' 
attachment  to  the  Mass  is  based  merely  on  pecuniary 
grounds  ;  connection  between  his  attack  on  the  Mass  and  his 
theory  as  a  whole.  His  work  on  the  "  Winkle-Mass  "  ;  his 
dispute  with  the  devil ;  his  defence  of  his  work  on  the 
"  Winkle-Mass  "  ;  Cochlseus  replies  ;  Luther's  references  to 
the  Mass  in  his  familiar  talks,  and  in  his  Schmalkalden 
"  Artickel  "  ;  a  profession  of  faith  in  the  Real  Presence 

pages  506-527 

VOL.   IV. 

IV. — B 



1.    Luther  and  Henry  VIII  of  England.     Bigamy  instead 
of  Divorce 

IN  King  Henry  the  Eighth's  celebrated  matrimonial  contro 
versy  the  Roman  See  by  its  final  decision  was  energetically 
to  vindicate  the  cause  of  justice,  in  spite  of  the  fear  that  this 
might  lead  to  the  loss  of  England  to  Catholicism.  The 
considered  judgment  was  clear  and  definite  :  Rather  than 
countenance  the  King's  divorce  from  Queen  Catherine,  or 
admit  bigamy  as  lawful,  the  Roman  Church  was  prepared 
to  see  the  falling  away  of  the  King  and  larger  portion  of 
the  realm.1 

In  the  summer,  1531,  Luther  was  drawn  into  the  con 
troversy  raging  round  the  King's  marriage,  by  an  agent  of 
King  Henry's.  Robert  Barnes,  an  English  Doctor  of 
Divinity  who  had  apostatised  from  the  Church  and  was 
residing  at  Wittenberg,  requested  of  Luther,  probably  at  the 
King's  instigation,  an  opinion  regarding  the  lawfulness  of 
his  sovereign's  divorce. 

To  Luther  it  was  clear  enough  that  there  was  no  possibility 
of  questioning  the  validity  of  Catherine's  marriage.  It 
rightly  appeared  to  him  impossible  that  the  Papal  dispensa 
tion,  by  virtue  of  which  Catherine  of  Aragon  had  married 
the  King  after  having  been  the  spouse  of  his  deceased 
brother,  should  be  represented  as  sufficient  ground  for  a 

1  On  Clement  the  Seventh's  earlier  hesitation  to  come  to  a  decision, 
see  Ehses  in  "  Vereinsschr.  der  GorresgeselL,"  1909,  3,  p.  7  ff.,  and  the 
works  there  referred  to  ;  also  Paulus,  "  Luther  und  die  Polygamie  " 
(on  Enders,  "  Luthers  Brief wechsel,"  9,  p.  92,  n.)  in  the  "  Lit.  Beilage 
der  Koln.  Volksztng.,"  1903,  No.  48,  and  "  Hist.-pol.  Blattor,"  135, 
1905,  p.  89  ff.  ;  Pastor,  "  Hist,  of  the  Popes "  (Engl.  trans.),  10, 
pp.  238-287.  See  below,  p.  6  f. 



divorce.     This  view  he  expressed  with  praiseworthy  frank 
ness  in  the  written  answer  he  gave  Barnes.1 

At  the  same  time,  however,  Luther  pointed  out  to  the 
King  a  loophole  by  which  he  might  be  able  to  succeed  in 
obtaining  the  object  of  his  desire  ;  by  this  concession,  un 
fortunately,  he  branded  his  action  as  a  pandering  to  the 
passions  of  an  adulterous  King.  At  the  conclusion  of  his 
memorandum  to  Barnes  he  has  the  following  :  "  Should 
the  Queen  be  unable  to  prevent  the  divorce,  she  must  accept 
the  great  evil  and  most  insulting  injustice  as  a  cross,  but 
not  in  any  way  acquiesce  in  it  or  consent  to  it.  Better  were 
it  for  her  to  allow  the  King  to  wed  another  Queen,  after  the 
example  of  the  Patriarchs,  who,  in  the  ages  previous  to  the 
law,  had  many  wives  ;  but  she  must  not  consent  to  being 
excluded  from  her  conjugal  rights  or  to  forfeiting  the  title 
of  Queen  of  England."2 

It  has  been  already  pointed  out  that  Luther,  in  conse 
quence  of  his  one-sided  study  of  the  Old  Testament,  had 
accustomed  himself  more  and  more  to  regard  bigamy  as 
something  lawful.3  That,  however,  he  had  so  far  ever  given 
his  formal  consent  to  it  in  any  particular  instance  there  is 
no  proof.  In  the  case  of  Henry  VIII,  Luther  felt  less  restraint 
than  usual.  His  plain  hint  at  bigamy  as  a  way  out  of  the 
difficulty  was  intended  as  a  counsel  ("  suasimus  ").  Hence 
we  can  understand  why  he  was  anxious  that  his  opinion 
should  not  be  made  too  public.4  When,  in  the  same  year 
(1531),  he  forwarded  to  the  Landgrave  of  Hesse  what  pur 
ported  to  be  a  copy  of  the  memorandum,  the  incriminating 
passage  was  carefully  omitted.5 

Melanchthon,  too,  had  intervened  in  the  affair,  and  had 
gone  considerably  further  than  Luther  in  recommending 

1  To  Robert  Barnes,  Sep.  3,  1531.  "  Brief wechsel,"  9,  pp.  87-8.    At 
the  commencement  we  read  :    "  Prohibitio  uxoris  demortui  fratris  est 
positivi  iuris,  non  divini."     A  later  revision  of  the  opinion  also  under 
Sep.  3,  ibid.,  pp.  92-8. 

2  "  Brief  wechsel,"  ibid.,  p.  88.    In  the  revision  the  passage  still  reads 
much  the  same  :    "  Rather  than  sanction  such  a  divorce  I  would  permit 
the  King  to  marry  a  second  Queen  .   .   .  and,  after  the  example  of  the 
olden  Fathers  and  Kings,  to  have  at  the  same  time  two  consorts  or 
Queens  "  (p.  93). 

3  See  vol.  iii.,  p.  259.  4  "  Briefwechsel,"  9,  p.  87  seq. 

5  Luther's  "  Briefwechsel,"  9,  p.  91,  n.  15.  Cp.  W.  W.  Rockwell, 
"  Die  Doppelehe  des  Landgrafen  Philipp  von  Hessen,"  Marburg,  1904, 
p.  214,  n.  1,  and  below,  p.  17,  n.  2. 


recourse  to  bigamy  and  in  answering  possible  objections  to 

In  a  memorandum  of  Aug.  23,  Melanchthon  declared  that 
the  King  was  entirely  justified  in  seeking  to  obtain  the  male 
heirs  with  whom  Catherine  had  failed  to  present  him  ;  this 
was  demanded  by  the  interests  of  the  State.  He  endeavours 
to  show  that  polygamy  is  not  forbidden  by  Divine  law  ;  in 
order  to  avoid  scandal  it  was,  however,  desirable  that  the 
King  "  should  request  the  Pope  to  sanction  his  bigamy, 
permission  being  granted  readily  enough  at  Rome."  Should 
the  Pope  refuse  to  give  the  dispensation,  then  the  King  was 
simply  and  of  his  own  authority  to  have  recourse  to  bigamy, 
because  in  that  case  the  Pope  was  not  doing  his  duty,  for 
he  was  "  bound  in  charity  to  grant  this  dispensation."1 
"  Although  I  should  be  loath  to  allow  polygamy  generally, 
yet,  in  the  present  case,  on  account  of  the  great  advantage 
to  the  kingdom  and  perhaps  to  the  King's  conscience,  I 
would  say  :  The  King  may,  with  a  good  conscience  ('  tutis- 
simum  est  regi  '),  take  a  second  wife  while  retaining  the 
first,  because  it  is  certain  that  polygamy  is  not  forbidden 
by  the  Divine  law,  nor  is  it  so  very  unusual."  Melanchthon' s 
ruthless  manner  of  proceeding  undoubtedly  had  a  great 
influence  on  the  other  Wittenbergers,  even  though  it  cannot 
be  maintained,  as  has  been  done,  that  he,  and  not  Luther, 
was  the  originator  of  the  whole  theory  ;  there  are  too  many 
clear  and  definite  earlier  statements  of  Luther's  in  favour 
of  polygamy  to  disprove  this.  Still,  it  is  true  that  the  lax 
opinion  broached  by  Melanchthon  in  favour  of  the  King  of 
England  played  a  great  part  later  in  the  matter  of  the 
bigamy  of  the  Landgrave  of  Hesse.2 

In  the  same  year,  however,  there  appeared  a  work  on 
matrimony  by  the  Lutheran  theologian  Johann  Brenz  in 
which,  speaking  generally  and  without  reference  to  this 

1  Memorandum  of  Aug.  23,  1531,  "  Corp.  ref.,"  2,  p.  520  seq.;  see 
particularly  p.  526  :  Bigamy  was  allowable  in  the  King's  case,  "  propter 
magnam  utilitatem  regni,  fortassis  etiam  propter  conscientiam  regis.  .  .  . 
Papa  hanc  dispensationem  propter  caritatem  debet  concedere."     Cp.  G. 
Ellinger,  "  Phil.  Melanchthon,"  1902,  p.  325  f.,  and  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p. 
208  ff. 

2  Cp.  Th.  Kolde,   '"'  Zeitschr.  f.  KG.,"   13,   1892,  p.  577,  where  he 
refers  to  the  after-effect  of  Melanchthon's  memorandum,  instanced  in 
Lenz,    "  Briefwechsel   Philipps   von  Hessen,"    1,   p.    352,   and  to  the 
material  on  which  Bucer  relied  to  win  over  the  Wittenbergers  to  the 
Landgrave's  side  ("  Corp.  ref.,"  3,  p.  851  seq.). 


particular  case,  he  expressed  himself  very  strongly  against 
the  lawfulness  of  polygamy.  "  The  secular  authorities,"  so 
Brenz  insists,  "  must  not  allow  any  of  their  subjects  to 
have  two  or  more  wives,"  they  must,  on  the  contrary,  put 
into  motion  the  "  penalties  of  the  Imperial  Laws  "  against 
polygamy  ;  no  pastor  may  "  bless  or  ratify  "  such  marriages, 
but  is  bound  to  excommunicate  the  offenders.1  Strange  to 
say,  the  work  appeared  with  a  Preface  by  Luther  in  which, 
however,  he  neither  praises  nor  blames  this  opinion.2 

The  Strasburg  theologians,  Bucer  and  Capito,  as  well  as 
the  Constance  preacher,  Ambrosius  Blaurer,  also  stood  up 
for  the  lawfulness  of  bigamy.  When,  however,  this  reached 
the  ears  of  the  Swiss  theologians,  (Ecolampadius,  in  a  letter 
of  Aug.  20,  exclaimed  :  "  They  wrere  inclined  to  consent  to 
the  King's  bigamy  !  But  far  be  it  from  us  to  hearken  more 
to  Mohammed  in  this  matter  than  to  Christ  !  "3 

In  spite  of  the  alluring  hint  thrown  out  at  Wittenberg,  the 
adulterous  King,  as  everyone  knows,  did  not  resort  to 
bigamy.  It  was  Henry  the  Eighth's  wish  to  be  rid  of  his 
wife,  and,  having  had  her  removed,  he  regarded  himself  as 
divorced.  After  the  King  had  repudiated  Catherine,  Luther 
told  his  friends  :  "  The  Universities  [i.e.  those  which  sided 
with  the  English  King]  have  declared  that  there  must  be  a 
divorce.  We,  however,  and  the  University  of  Louvain, 
decided  differently.  .  .  .  We  [viz.  Luther  and  Melanchthon] 
advised  the  Englishman  that  it  wrould  be  better  for  him  to 
take  a  concubine  than  to  distract  his  country  and  nation  ; 
yet  in  the  end  he  put  her  away."4 

W7hen  Clement  VII  declared  the  first  marriage  to  be  valid 
and  indissoluble,  and  also  refused  to  countenance  any 
bigamy,  Henry  VIII  retorted  by  breaking  with  the  Church 
of  Rome,  carrying  his  country  with  him.  For  a  while 
Clement  had  hesitated  on  the  question  of  bigamy,  since,  in 
view  of  Cardinal  Cajetan's  opinion  to  the  contrary,  he  found 
it  difficult  to  convince  himself  that  a  dispensation  could  not 

1  "Wie  in  Ehesachen  und  den  Fallen,  so  sich  derhalben  zutragen, 
nach  gottlichem  billigem  Rechten  christenlich  zu  handeln  sei,"  1531. 
Fol.  D.  2b  and  D.  3a.    Cp.  Rockwell,  p.  281,  n.  1. 

2  The  Preface  reprinted  in  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  63,  p.  305. 

3  Enders,  "  Luther's  Briefwechsel,"  9,  p.  92. 

4  Cordatus,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  199  :    "  Suasimus  Anglo,  tolerabiliorem 
ei  esse  concubinatum  quam  "  to  distract  his  \vhole  country  and  nation, 
"  sed  tandem  earn  repudiavit." 


be  given,  and  because  he  was  personally  inclined  to  be 
indulgent  and  friendly  ;  finally,  however,  he  gave  Bennet, 
the  English  envoy,  clearly  to  understand  that  the  dispensa 
tion  was  not  in  his  power  to  grant.1  That  he  himself  was 
not  sufficiently  versed  in  Canon  Law,  the  Pope  repeatedly 
admitted.  "  It  will  never  be  possible  to  allege  the  attitude 
of  Clement  VII  as  any  excuse  for  the  Hessian  affair  "  (Ehses). 
It  is  equally  impossible  to  trace  the  suggestion  of  bigamy 
back  to  the  opinions  prevailing  in  mediaeval  Catholicism.2 
No  mediaeval  pope  or  confessor  can  be  instanced  who 
sanctioned  bigamy,  while  there  are  numbers  of  theologians 
who  deny  the  Pope's  power  to  grant  such  dispensations  ; 
many  even  describe  this  negative  opinion  as  the  "  sententia 

Of  Cardinal  Cajetan,  the  only  theologian  of  note  on  the 
opposite  side  (see  above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  261),  W.  Kohler  remarks, 
alluding  particularly  to  the  recent  researches  of  N.  Paulus  : 
"  It  never  entered  Cardinal  Cajetan's  head  to  deny  that  the 
ecclesiastical  law  categorically  forbids  polygamy."4  Further  : 
"  Like  Paulus,  we  may  unhesitatingly  admit  that,  in  this 
case,  it  would  have  been  better  for  Luther  had  he  had 
behind  him  the  guiding  authority  of  the  Church."5 

Henry  VIII,  as  was  only  natural,  sought  to  make  the 
best  use  of  the  friendship  of  the  Wittenberg  professors  and 
Princes  of  the  Schmalkalden  League,  against  Rome  and 
the  Emperor.  He  despatched  an  embassy,  though  his 
overtures  were  not  as  successful  as  he  might  have  wished. 

We  may  describe  briefly  the  facts  of  the  case. 

1  Cp.  Paulus  in  the  "  Hist.-pol.  Bl.,"  135,  1905,  p.  90. 

2  [Though,    of   course,   the    hesitation    evinced   previously  by   St. 
Augustine  ("  De  bono  conjugate,"   "  P.L.,"  xl.,  col.  385)  must  not  be 
lost  sight  of.     Note  to  English  Edition.'] 

3  Cp.  Paulus,  ibid.,  147,  1911,  p.  505,  where  he  adds  :    "And  yet 
mediaeval  casuistry  is  alleged  to  have  been  the  '  determining  influence  ' 
in  Luther's  sanction  of  bigamy  !     Had  Luther  allowed  himself  to  be 
guided  by  the  mediaeval  theory  and  practice,  he  would  never  have  given 
his  consent  to  the  Hessian  bigamy." 

4  "  Hist.  Zeitschr.,"  94,  1905,  p.  409.    Of  Clement  VII,  Kohler  writes 
(ibid.)  :    "  Pope  Clement  VII,  who  had  to  make  a  stand  against  Henry 
VIII  of  England  in  the  question  of  bigamy,  never  suggested  a  dispensa 
tion  for  a  second  wife,  though,  to  all  appearance,  he  was  not  convinced 
that  such  a  dispensation  was  impossible." 

5  "  Theol.  JB.  fur  1905,"  Bd.  25,  p.  657,  with  reference  to  "  Hist.- 
pol.  Bl.,"  135,  p.  85. 


The  Schmalkalden  Leaguers,  from  the  very  inception  of  the 
League,  had  been  seeking  the  support  both  of  England  and  of 
France.  In  1535  they  made  a  determined  effort  to  bring  about 
closer  relations  with  Henry  VIII,  and,  at  the  Schmalkalden 
meeting,  the  latter  made  it  known  that  he  was  not  unwilling  to 
"  join  the  Christian  League  of  the  Electors  and  Princes."  Here 
upon  he  was  offered  the  "  title  and  standing  of  patron  and  pro 
tector  of  the  League."  The  political  negotiations  nevertheless 
miscarried,  owing  to  the  King's  excessive  demands  for  the  event 
of  an  attack  on  his  Kingdom.1  The  project  of  an  alliance  with 
the  King  of  Denmark,  the  Duke  of  Prussia,  and  with  Saxony  and 
Hesse,  for  the  purpose  of  a  war  against  the  Emperor,  also  came 
to  nothing. 

In  these  negotiations  the  Leaguers  wanted  first  of  all  to  reach 
an  agreement  with  Henry  in  the  matter  of  religion,  whereas  the 
latter  insisted  that  political  considerations  should  have  the 
first  place. 

In  the  summer,  1535,  Robert  Barnes,  the  English  plenipo 
tentiary,  was  raising  great  and  exaggerated  hopes  in  Luther's 
breast  of  Henry's  making  common  cause  with  the  Wittenberg 

Into  his  plans  Luther  entered  with  great  zest,  and  consented 
to  Melanchthon's  being  sent  to  England  as  his  representative, 
for  the  purpose  of  further  negotiations.  As  we  now  know  from 
a  letter  of  recommendation  of  Sep.  12,  1535,  first  printed  in  1894, 
he  recommended  Barnes  to  the  Chancellor  Briick  for  an  inter 
view  with  the  Elector,  and  requested  permission  for  Melanchthon 
to  undertake  the  journey  to  England.  Joyfully  he  points  out 
that  "  now  the  King  offers  to  accept  the  Evangel,  to  join  the 
League  of  our  Princes  and  to  allow  our  'Apologia '  entry  into  his 
Kingdom."  Such  an  opportunity  must  not  be  allowed  to  slip, 
for  "  the  Papists  will  be  in  high  dudgeon."  Quite  possibly  God 
may  have  something  in  view. 2 

In  England  hopes  were  entertained  that  these  favourable  offers 
would  induce  a  more  friendly  attitude  towards  the  question  of 
Henry's  divorce.  Concerning  this  Luther  merely  says  in  the 
letter  cited  :  "In  the  matter  of  the  royal  marriage,  the  '  sus- 
pensio'  has  already  been  decided,"  without  going  into  any 
further  particulars  ;  he,  however,  reserves  the  case  to  be  dealt 
with  by  the  theologians  exclusively. 

In  August,  1535,  Melanchthon  had  dedicated  one  of  his 
writings  to  the  King  of  England,  and  had,  on  this  occasion, 
lavished  high  praise  on  him.  It  was  probably  about  this  time 
that  the  King  sent  the  presents  to  Wittenberg,  to  which 
Catherine  Bora  casually  alludes  in  the  Table-Talk.  "  Philip 
received  several  gifts  from  the  Englishman,  in  all  five  hundred 
pieces  of  gold  ;  for  our  own  part  we  got  at  least  fifty."3 

1  Cp.  Janssen,  "  Hist,  of  the  German  People,"  Eng.  Trans.,  6,  pp.  1  ff. 

2  Letter  published  by  Th.  Kolde  in  the  "  Zeitschr.  fur  KG.,"  14, 
1894,  p.  605. 

3  Mathesius,  "Tischreden,"  p.  106,  in  1540.  Cp.  "Corp.  ref.,"  2,  p.  995. 


Melanchthon  took  no  offence  at  the  cruel  execution  of  Sir 
Thomas  More  or  at  the  other  acts  of  violence  already  perpetrated 
by  Henry  VIII ;  on  the  contrary,  he  gave  his  approval  to  the  deeds 
of  the  royal  tyrant,  and  described  it  as  a  commandment  of  God 
"to  use  strong  measures  against  fanatical  and  godless  men."1 
The  sanguinary  action  of  the  English  tyrant  led  Luther  to 
express  the  wish,  that  a  similar  fate  might  befall  the  heads  of  the 
Catholic  Church  at  Rome.  In  the  very  year  of  Bishop  Fisher's 
execution  he  wrote  to  Melanchthon  :  "  It  is  easy  to  lose  our 
tempers  when  we  see  what  traitors,  thieves,  robbers,  nay  devils 
incarnate  the  Cardinals,  the  Popes  and  their  Legates  are.  Alas 
that  there  are  not  more  Kings  of  England  to  put  them  to  death  !  "  2 
He  also  refers  to  the  alleged  horrors  practised  by  the  Pope's  tools 
in  plundering  the  Church,  and  asks  :  "  How  can  the  Princes  and 
Lords  put  up  with  it  ?  " 

In  Dec.,  1535,  a  convention  of  the  Schmalkalden  Leaguers,  at 
Melanchthon's  instance,  begged  the  envoys  despatched  by  Henry, 
who  were  on  their  way  to  Wittenberg,  to  induce  their  master  to 
promote  the  Confession  of  Augsburg — unless,  indeed,  as  they 
added  with  unusual  consideration,  "  they  and  the  King  should  be 
unanimous  in  thinking  that  something  in  the  Confession  might 
be  improved  upon  or  made  more  in  accordance  with  the  Word 
of  God."3 

Just  as  in  the  advances  made  by  the  King  to  Wittenberg  "  the 
main  point  had  been  to  obtain  a  favourable  pronouncement  from 
the  German  theologians  in  the  matter  of  his  divorce,"  so  too  in 
consenting  to  discuss  the  Confession  of  Augsburg  he  was  actu 
ated  by  the  thought  that  this  would  lead  to  a  discussion  on  the 
Papal  power  and  the  question  of  the  divorce,  i.e.  to  those  points 
which  the  King  had  so  much  at  heart. 4 

On  the  arrival  immediately  after  of  the  envoys  at  Witten 
berg  they  had  the  satisfaction  of  learning  from  Luther  and  his 
circle,  that  the  theologians  had  already  changed  their  minds  in 
the  King's  favour  concerning  the  lawfulness  of  marriage  with  a 
brother's  widow.  Owing  to  the  influence  of  Osiander,  whom 
Henry  VIII  had  wron  over  to  his  side,  they  now  had  come  to 
regard  such  marriages  as  contrary  to  the  natural  moral  law. 
Hence  Henry's  new  marriage  might  be  considered  valid.  They 
were  not,  however,  as  yet  ready  to  draw  this  last  inference  from 

1  "  Corp.  ref.,"  2,  p.  928.     Melanchthon's  language,  and  Luther's 
too,  changed  when,  later,  Henry  VIII  caused  those  holding  Lutheran 
opinions  to  be  executed.    See  below,  p.  12  f. 

2  Beginning  of  Dec.,  1535.     "  Briefwechsel,"  10,  p.  275  :    "  Utinam 
haberent  plures  reges  Anglice,  qui  illos  occiderent  !  " 

3  "Corp.    ref.,"    2,   p.    1032,   n.    1383.      Cp.    Kostlin-Kawerau,    2, 
p.  369. 

4  Thus  G.  Mentz,  the  editor  of  the  "  Wittenberger  Artickel,"  drawn 
up  for  the  envoys  from  England  ("  Quellenschriften  zur  Gesch.  des 
Prot.,"  Hft.  2,  1905),  pp.  3  and  4.    He  points  out,  p.  7,  that  King  Henry, 
in  a  reply  to  Wittenberg  (March   12,   1536,   "  Corp.  ref.,"  3,  p.  48), 
requested  "  support  in  the  question  of  the  divorce  "  and  desired  certain 
things  to  be  modified  in  the  "  Confessio  "  and  the  "  Apologia." 


the  invalidity  of  the  previous  marriage  between  the  King  and 
Catherine. l 

Luther,  however,  became  more  and  more  convinced  that 
marriage  with  a  brother's  widow  was  invalid  ;  in  1542,  for 
instance,  on  the  assumption  of  the  invalidity  of  such  a  union,  he 
unhesitatingly  annulled  the  marriage  of  a  certain  George  Schud, 
as  a  devilish  abomination  "  ("  abominatio  diaboli  ").2 

The  spokesman  of  the  English  mission,  Bishop  Edward  Fox, 
demanded  from  Luther  the  admission  that  the  King  had  separ 
ated  from  his  first  wife  "  on  very  just  grounds."  Luther,  how 
ever,  would  only  agree  that  he  had  done  so  "on  very  many 
grounds."  He  said  later,  in  conversation,  that  his  insistence  on 
this  verbal  nicety  had  cost  him  three  hundred  Gulden,  which  he 
would  have  received  from  England  in  the  event  of  his  com 
pliance.3  He  cannot  indeed  be  accused  of  having  been,  from 
ecclesiastico-political  motives,  too  hasty  in  gratifying  the  King's 
demands  in  the  matter  of  the  divorce.  Yet,  on  the  other  hand, 
it  is  not  unlikely  that  the  desire  to  pave  the  way  for  a  practical 
understanding  was  one  of  the  motives  for  his  mode  of  action. 
His  previous  outspoken  declarations  against  any  dissolution  of 
the  Royal  marriage  compelled  him  to  assume  an  attitude  not  too 
strongly  at  variance  with  his  earlier  opinion. 

After  the  new  marriage  had  taken  place  negotiations  with 
England  continued,  principally  with  the  object  of  securing  such 
acceptance  of  the  new  doctrine  as  might  lead  to  a  politico- 
religious  alliance  between  that  country  and  the  Schmalkalden 
Leaguers.  Luther,  however,  stubbornly  refused  to  concede 
anything  to  the  King  in  the  matter  of  his  chief  doctrines,  for 
instance,  regarding  Justification  or  the  rejection  of  the  Mass. 

The  articles  agreed  upon  at  the  lengthy  conferences  held 
during  the  early  months  of  1536 — and  made  public  only  in  1905 
(see  above,  p.  9,  n.  4) — failed  to  satisfy  the  King,  although 
they  displayed  a  very  conciliatory  spirit.  Melanchthon  outdid 
himself  in  his  endeavour  to  render  the  Wittenberg  teaching 

1  For  full  particulars  concerning  the  change,  see  Rockwell,  loc.  cit., 
216  rT.    The  latter  says,  p.  217  :    "  Luther's  opinion  obviously  changed 
[before  March  12,  1536].   .   .  .  Yet  lie  expressed  himself  even  in  1536 
against  the  divorce  [Henry  the  Eighth's] ;  the  prohibition  [of  marriage 
with  a  sister  in-law]  from  which  the  Mosaic  Law  admitted  exceptions, 
might  be  dispensed,  whereas  the  prohibition  of  divorce  could  not  be 
dispensed,"  and,  p.   220  :     "In  the  change  of    1536  the  influence  of 
Osiander  is  unmistakable.  .   .   .  Cranmer,  when  at  Ratisbon  in   1532, 
had  visited  Osiander  several  times  at  Nuremberg,  and  finally  won  him 
over  to  the  side  of  the  King  of  England."     At  the  end  Rockwell  sums 
up  as  follows  (p.  222)  :    "  The  expedient  of  bigamy  .  .   .  was  approved 
by  Luther,  Melanchthon,  Grynseus,  Bucer  and  Capito,  but  repudiated 
by  (Ecolampadius  and  Zwingli.     Hence  we  cannot  be  surprised  that 
Luther,  Melanchthon  and  Bucer  should  regard  favourably  the  Hessian 
proposal    of    bigamy,    whereas    Zwingli's    successors    at    Zurich,    viz. 
Bullinger  and  Gualther,  opposed  it  more  or  less  openly." 

2  On  Feb.  16,  1542,   "Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  5,  p.  436.     Cp.  ibid., 
p.  584,  Letter  of  Jan.  18,  1545. 

3  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  152,  in  1540. 

HENRY  VIII  OF  ENGLAND          11 

acceptable.  "It  is  true  that  the  main  points  of  faith  were  not 
sacrificed,"  remarks  the  discoverer  and  editor  of  the  articles  in 
question,  "  but  the  desire  to  please  noticeable  in  their  form,  even 
in  such  questions  as  those  concerning  the  importance  of  good 
works,  monasteries,  etc.,  is  nevertheless  surprising."1  Luther 
himself,  in  a  letter  of  April  29,  1536,  to  the  Electoral  Vice- 
Chancellor  Burkhard,  spoke  of  the  concessions  made  in  these 
articles  as  the  final  limit ;  to  go  further  would  be  to  concede  to 
the  King  of  England  what  had  been  refused  to  the  Pope  and  the 
Emperor  ;  "at  Augsburg  [in  1530]  we  might  have  come  to  terms 
more  easily  with  the  Pope  and  the  Emperor,  nay,  perhaps  we 
might  do  so  even  now."  To  enter  into  an  ecclesiastico-political 
alliance  with  the  English  would,  he  considers,  be  "  dangerous," 
for  the  Schmalkalden  Leaguers  "  were  not  all  of  one  mind  "  ; 
hence  the  (theological)  articles  ought  first  to  be  accepted  ;  the 
League  was,  however,  a  secular  matter  and  therefore  he  would 
beg  the  "  beloved  Lords  and  my  Gracious  Master  to  consider  " 
whether  they  could  accept  it  without  a  previous  agreement  being 
reached  on  the  point  of  theology.2 

Though  Luther  and  the  Princes  set  great  store  on  the 
projected  alliance,  on  account  of  the  increase  of  strength  it 
would  have  brought  the  German  Evangelicals,  yet  their 
hopes  were  to  be  shattered,  for  the  articles  above  referred 
to  did  not  find  acceptance  in  England.  Luther  was  later 
on  to  declare  that  everything  had  come  to  nought  because 
King  Henry  wished  to  be  head  of  the  Protestants  in 
Germany,  which  the  Elector  of  Saxony  would  not  permit  : 
"  Let  the  devil  take  the  great  Lords  !  This  rogue  ('  is  nebulo  ') 
wanted  to  be  proclaimed  head  of  our  religion,  but  to  this 
the  Elector  would  in  no  wise  agree  ;  we  did  not  even  know 
what  sort  of  belief  he  had."3  Probably  the  King  demanded 
a  paramount  influence  in  the  Schmalkalden  League,  and  the 
German  Princes  were  loath  to  be  deprived  of  the  direction 
of  affairs. 

After  all  hopes  of  an  agreement  had  vanished  Henry  VIII 
made  no  secret  of  his  antipathy  for  the  Lutheran  teaching. 

The  quondam  Defender  of  the  Faith  even  allowed  himself 
to  be  carried  away  to  acts  of  bloodshed.  In  1540  he  caused 
Luther's  friend,  Robert  Barnes,  the  agent  already  referred 
to,  to  be  burnt  at  the  stake  as  a  heretic.  Barnes  had  adopted 
the  Lutheran  doctrine  of  Justification.  It  was  not  on  this 
account  alone,  however,  that  he  was  obnoxious  to  the  King, 

1  Mentz,  loc.  cit.,  p.  11. 

"  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  52,  p.  133  ("  Brief wechsel,"  10,  p.  327). 
3  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  174,  in  1540. 


but  also  because  the  latter  had  grown  weary  of  Anne  of 
Cleves,  whom  Barnes  and  Thomas  Cromwell,  the  King's 
favourite,  had  given  him  as  a  fourth  consort,  after  Anne 
Boleyn  and  Jane  Seymour.  Cromwell,  though  not  favour 
ably  disposed  to  Lutheranism,  was  executed  a  few  days 
before.  On  April  9,  1536,  Luther  had  written  to  Cromwell 
a  very  polite  letter,  couched  in  general  terms,1  in  answer 
to  a  courteous  missive  from  that  statesman  handed  to  him 
by  Barnes.  From  Luther's  letter  we  see  that  Cromwell 
"  had  been  described  to  him  in  too  favourable  a  light,"2  as 
though  predisposed  to  the  Lutheran  doctrine  or  to  regard 
Luther  as  a  divinely  sent  teacher.  Luther  deceived  himself 
if  he  fancied  that  Cromwell  was  ready  to  "  work  for  the 
cause  "  ;  the  latter  remained  as  unfriendly  to  Lutheranism 
proper  as  the  King  himself. 

In  the  year  of  Barnes's  execution  Melanchthon  wrote  the 
letter  to  Veit  Dietrich  in  which  he  expresses  the  pious  wish, 
that  God  would  send  a  brave  murderer  to  bring  the  King  to 
the  end  he  deserved.3 

Luther,  on  his  side,  declared  :  "  The  devil  himself  rides 
astride  this  King  "  ;  "I  am  glad  that  we  have  no  part  in 
his  blasphemy."  He  boasted,  so  Luther  says,  of  being  head 
of  the  Church  of  England,  a  title  which  no  bishop,  much 
less  a  King,  had  any  right  to,  more  particularly  one  who 
with  his  crew  had  "  vexed  and  tortured  Christ  and  His 
Church."4  In  1540  Luther  spoke  sarcastically  of  the 
King's  official  title  :  "  Under  Christ  the  supreme  head  on 
earth  of  the  English  Church,"5  remarking,  that,  in  that 
case,  "even  the  angels  are  excluded."6  Of  Melanchthon's 
dedication  of  some  of  his  books  to  the  King,  Luther  says, 
that  this  had  been  of  little  service.  "  In  future  I  am  not 
going  to  dedicate  any  of  my  books  to  anyone.  It  brought 
Philip  no  good  in  the  case  of  the  bishop  [Albert  of  Mayence], 
of  the  Englishman,  or  of  the  Hessian  [the  Landgrave 
Philip]."7  Still  more  fierce  became  his  hatred  and  dis 
appointment  when  he  found  the  King  consorting  with  his 
sworn  enemies,  Duke  George,  and  Albert,  Elector  of  Mayence.8 

1   "  Brief wechsel,"  10,  p.  324.  2  Ibid.,  p.  326. 

3  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  400,  with  reference  to  "  Corp.  ref,"  3,  p.  1076. 

4  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,   1,  p.   537,  where  the  words  have  been 
transferred  to  July  10,  1539. 

5  Cp.  "  Corp.  ref.,"  2,  p.  1029.          «  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  178. 
7  Ibid.,  p.   145.  8  Ibid.,  p.  198. 


When  he  heard  the  news  of  Barnes  having  been  cast  into 
prison,  he  said  :  "  This  King  wants  to  make  himself  God. 
He  lays  down  articles  of  faith  and  forbids  marriage  under 
pain  of  death,  a  thing  which  even  the  Pope  scrupled  to  do. 
I  am  something  of  a  prophet  and,  as  what  I  prophesy  comes 
true,  I  shall  refrain  from  saying  more."1 

Luther  never  expressed  any  regret  regarding  his  readiness 
to  humour  the  King's  lusts  or  regarding  his  suggestion  of 

The  Landgrave  Philip  of  Hesse,  however,  referred  directly 
to  the  proposal  of  bigamy  made  to  the  King  of  England, 
when  he  requested  Luther's  consent  to  his  own  project  of 
taking  a  second  wife.  The  Landgrave  had  got  to  hear  of 
the  proposal  in  spite  of  the  unlucky  passage  having  been 
struck  out  of  the  deed. 

The  history  of  the  Hessian  bigamy  is  an  incident  which 
throws  a  curious  light  on  Luther's  exceptional  indulgence 
towards  princely  patrons  of  the  Evangel  in  Germany. 

2.  The  Bigamy  of  Philip  of  Hesse 

As  early  as  1526  Philip  of  Hesse,  whose  conduct  was  far 
from  being  conspicuous  for  morality,  had  submitted  to 
Luther  the  question  whether  Christians  were  allowed  to 
have  more  than  one  wife.  The  Wittenberg  Professor  gave 
a  reply  tallying  with  his  principles  as  already  described ;  2 
instead  of  pointing  out  clearly  that  such  a  thing  was  divinely 
forbidden  to  all  Christians,  was  not  to  be  dispensed  from 
by  any  earthly  authority,  and  that  such  extra  marriages 
would  be  entirely  invalid,  Luther  refused  to  admit  un 
conditionally  the  invalidity  of  such  unions.  Such  marriages, 
he  stated,  gave  scandal  to  Christians,  "for  without  due 
cause  and  necessity  even  the  old  Patriarchs  did  not  take 
more  than  one  wife  "  ;  it  was  incumbent  that  we  should  be 
able  "  to  appeal  to  the  Word  of  God,"  but  no  such  Word 
existed  in  favour  of  polygamy,  "  by  which  the  same  could 

1  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  145.      On  account  of  his  cruelty  he 
says  of  Henry  VIII,  in  Aug.,  1540  :   "I  look  upon  him  not  as  a  man  but 
as  a  devil  incarnate.     He  has  added  to  his  other  crimes  the  execution 
of  the  Chancellor  Cromwell,   whom,   a  few  days  previously,  he  had 
made  Lord  Chief  Justice  of  the  Kingdom  "  (ibid.,  p.  174). 

2  For  Luther's  previous  statements  in  favour  of  polygamy,  see  vol. 
iii.,  p.  259  ff.  ;   and  above,  p.  4. 


be  proved  to  be  well  pleasing  to  God  in  the  case  of  Chris 
tians  "  ;  "  hence  I  am  unable  to  recommend  it,  but  would 
rather  dissuade  from  it,  especially  for  Christians,  unless  some 
great  necessity  existed,  for  instance  were  the  wife  to  contract 
leprosy  or  become  otherwise  unfit."1  It  is  not  clear  whether 
Philip  was  interested  in  the  matter  for  personal  reasons,  or 
simply  because  some  of  his  subjects  were  believers  in 

Luther's  communication,  far  from  diverting  the  Prince 
from  his  project,  could  but  serve  to  make  him  regard  it  as 
feasible  ;  provided  that  the  "  great  necessity  "  obtained 
and  that  he  had  "  the  Word  of  God  on  his  side,"  then  the 
step  could  "  not  be  prevented."  By  dint  of  a  judicious 
interpretation  of  Scripture  and  with  expert  theological  aid, 
the  obstacles  might  easily  be  removed. 

The  Hessian  Prince  also  became  acquainted  with  Luther's 
statements  on  bigamy  in  his  Commentary  on  Genesis 
published  in  the  following  year.  To  them  the  Landgrave 
Philip  appealed  expressly  in  1540  ;  the  preacher  Anton 
Corvinus  having  suggested  that  he  should  deny  having  com 
mitted  bigamy,  he  replied  indignantly  :  "  Since  you  are  so 
afraid  of  it,  why  do  you  not  suppress  what  Luther  wrote 
more  than  ten  years  ago  on  Genesis  ;  did  he  and  others  not 
write  publicly  concerning  bigamy  :  '  Advise  it  I  do  not, 
forbid  it  I  cannot '  ?  If  you  are  allowed  to  write  thus  of  it 
publicly,  you  must  expect  that  people  will  act  up  to  your 

The  question  became  a  pressing  one  for  Luther,  and  began 
to  cast  a  shadow  over  his  wayward  and  utterly  untraditional 
interpretation  of  the  Bible,  when,  in  1539,  the  Landgrave 
resolved  to  take  as  an  additional  wife,  besides  Christina 
the  daughter  of  George  of  Saxony,  who  had  now  grown 
distasteful  to  him,  the  more  youthful  Margeret  von  der 
Sale.  From  Luther  Margeret' s  mother  desired  a  favourable 
pronouncement,  in  order  to  be  able  with  a  good  conscience 
to  give  her  consent  to  her  daughter's  wedding. 

1  To  Philip  of  Hesse,  Nov.  28,  1526,  "  Brief  wechsel,"  5,  p.  411  f. 

2  "  Eriefwechsel  des  A.  Corvinus,"  ed.  Tschackert,  1900,  p.  81. 


Philip  Seeks  the  Permission  of  Wittenberg. 

Early  in  Nov.,  1539,  Gereon  Sailer,  an  Augsburg  physician 
famous  for  his  skill  in  handling  venereal  cases,  who  had 
treated  the  Landgrave  at  Cassel,  was  sent  by  Philip  to 
Bucer  at  Strasburg  to  instruct  the  latter  to  bring  the  matter 
before  the  theologians  of  Wittenberg.  Sailer  was  a  friend 
of  the  innovations,  and  Bucer  was  highly  esteemed  by  the 
Landgrave  as  a  theologian  and  clever  diplomatist. 

Bucer  was  at  first  sorely  troubled  in  conscience  and 
hesitated  to  undertake  the  commission  ;  Sailer  reported 
to  the  Landgrave  that,  on  hearing  of  the  plan,  he  had  been 
"  quite  horrified"  and  had  objected  "the  scandal  such  an 
innovation  in  a  matter  of  so  great  importance  and  difficulty 
might  cause  among  the  weak  followers  of  the  Evangel."1 
After  thinking  the  matter  over  for  three  days  Bucer,  how 
ever,  agreed  to  visit  the  Landgrave  on  Nov.  16  and  receive 
his  directions.  A  copy  of  the  secret  and  elaborate  instruc 
tions  given  him  by  Philip  concerning  the  appeal  he  was  to 
make  to  Luther  still  exists  in  the  handwriting  of  Simon 
Bing,  the  Hessian  Secretary,  in  the  Marburg  Archives 
together  with  several  old  copies,2  as  also  the  original  rough 
draft  in  Philip's  own  hand.3  The  envoy  first  betook  him 
self  to  the  meeting  of  the  Schmalkalden  Leaguers,  held  at 
Arnstadt  on  Nov.  20,  to  confer  upon  a  new  mission  to  be 
sent  to  England  ;  on  Dec.  4  he  was  at  Weimar  with  the 
Elector  of  Saxony  and  on  the  9th  he  had  reached  Witten 

The  assenting  answer  given  by  Luther  and  Melanchthon 
bears  the  date  of  the  following  day.4  It  is  therefore  quite 
true  that  the  matter  was  settled  "  in  haste,"  as  indeed  the 
text  of  the  reply  states.  Bucer  doubtless  did  his  utmost  to 

1  "  Brief wechsel  Landgraf  Philipps  des  Grossmiitigen  von  Hessen 
mit  Bucer,  hg.  und  erlautert  von  Max  Lenz  "  ("  Publikationen  aus  den 
Kgl.  preuss.  Staatsarchiven,"  Bd.  5,  28  und  47  =  1,  2,  3),  1,  1880,  p.  345. 
Cp.   N.    Paulus,    "  Die   hessische   Doppelehe   im   Urteile   der   protest. 
Zeitgenossen,"  "  Hist.-pol.  Bl.,"  147,  1911  (p.  503  ff.,  561  ff.)  p.  504. 

2  We   quote   the   instructions   throughout  from   the   most  reliable 
edition,  viz.  that  in  "  Luthers  Brief  wechsel,"  12  (1910,  p.  301  ff.),  which 
G.  Kawerau  continued  and  published  after  the  death  of  Enders. 

3  "  Philipps  Brief  wechsel,"  ed.  Lenz,  1,  p.  352. 

4  Best  given  in  "  Luthers  Briefwechsel,"  12,  p.  319  ff.    Cp.  "  Luthers 
Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  55,  p.  258  ff. ;   "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  5,  p.  237,  which 
gives  only  the  Latin  version;  "Corp.  ref.,"  3,  p.  851  sea, ;    "  Hist.-pol. 
BL,"  18,  1846,  p.  236  ff. 


prevent  the  theologians  from  having  recourse  to  subterfuge 
or  delay. 

The  above-mentioned  instructions  contain  a  sad  account 
of  the  "  dire  necessity  "  which  seemed  to  justify  the  second 
marriage  :  The  Landgrave  would  otherwise  be  unable  to 
lead  a  moral  life  ;  he  was  urged  on  by  deep  distress  of 
conscience  ;  not  merely  did  he  endure  temptations  of  the 
flesh  beyond  all  measure,  but,  so  runs  his  actual  confession, 
he  was  quite  unable  to  refrain  from  "  fornication,  un- 
chastity  and  adultery."1  The  confession  dealt  with  matters 
which  were  notorious.  It  also  contains  the  admission,  that 
he  had  not  remained  true  to  his  wife  for  long,  in  fact  not  for 
more  than  "  three  weeks  "  ;  on  account  of  his  sense  of  sin 
he  had  "  not  been  to  the  Sacrament."  As  a  matter  of  fact 
he  had  abstained  from  Communion  from  1526  to  1539,  viz. 
for  thirteen  years,  and  until  his  last  attack  of  the  venereal 

But  were  the  scruples  of  conscience  thus  detailed  to  the 
Wittenbcrgers  at  all  real  ?  Recently  they  have  been 
characterised  as  the  "  outcome  of  a  bodily  wreck." 

"  I  am  unable  to  practise  self-restraint,"  Philip  of  Hesse 
had  declared  on  another  occasion,  "  I  am  forced  to  commit 
fornication  or  worse,  with  women."  His  sister  Elisabeth 
had  already  advised  him  to  take  a  concubine  in  place  of  so 
many  prostitutes.  In  all  probability  Philip  would  have 
abducted  Margaret  von  der  Sale  had  he  not  hoped  to  obtain 
her  in  marriage  through  the  intervention  of  her  relations 
and  with  Luther's  consent.  A  Protestant  historian  has 
recently  pointed  this  out  when  dealing  with  Philip's  alleged 
"  distress  of  conscience."2 

Bucer  was  well  able  to  paint  in  dismal  hues  the  weakness 
of  his  princely  client ;  he  pointed  out,  "  how  the  Landgrave, 
owing  to  his  wife's  deficiencies,  was  unable  to  remain 
chaste  ;  how  he  had  previously  lived  so  and  so,  which  was 
neither  good  nor  Evangelical,  especially  in  one  of  the 
mainstays  of  the  party."3  In  that  very  year  Philip  of 
Hesse  had,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  been  ailing  from  a  certain 

1  "  Luthers  Brief  wechsel,"  12,  p.  301. 

2  W.  Kohler,  "  Die  Doppelehe  des  Landgrafen  Philipp  von  Hessen  " 
("  Histor.  Zeitschr.,"  94,  1905,  p.  385  ff.),  p.  399,  400. 

3  Luther's  letter,  June,  1540,  to  the  Elector  of  Saxony  (below,  p.  37) 
ed.  Seidemann  from  a  Kiel  MS.  in  his  edition  of  "  Lauterbachs  Tage- 
buch,"  p.  196  ff. 


malady  brought  upon  him  by  his  excesses  ;  he  himself  spoke 
of  it  as  a  "  severe  attack  of  the  French  sickness  [syphilis], 
which  is  the  penalty  of  an  immoral  life."1 

True  to  his  instructions,  Bucer  went  on  to  say  that  the  Land 
grave  had  firmly  "  resolved  "  to  make  use  against  his  un- 
chastity — which  he  neither  could  nor  would  refrain  from  with 
his  present  wife — of  "  such  means  as  God  permitted  and  did  not 
forbid,"  viz.  to  wed  a  second  wife.  The  two  Wittenbergers  had 
perforce  to  listen  while  Bucer,  as  the  mouthpiece  of  the  Land 
grave,  put  forth  as  the  grounds  of  his  client's  firm  resolve  the 
very  proofs  from  Scripture  which  they  themselves  had  adduced 
in  favour  of  polygamy  ;  they  were  informed  that,  according  to 
the  tenor  of  a  memorandum,  "  both  Luther  and  Philip  had 
counselled  the  King  of  England  not  to  divorce  his  first  wife,  but 
rather  to  take  another."2  It  was  accordingly  the  Landgrave's 
desire  that  they  should  "  give  testimony  "  that  his  deed  was  not 
unjust,  and  that  they  should  "  make  known  in  the  press  and 
from  the  pulpit  what  was  the  right  course  to  pursue  in  such 
circumstances  "  ;  should  they  have  scruples  about  doing  this 
for  fear  of  scandal  or  evil  consequences,  they  were  at  least  to 
give  a  declaration  in  writing  :  "  That  were  I  to  do  it  secretly, 
yet  I  should  not  offend  God,  but  that  they  regard  it  as  a  real 
marriage,  and  would  meanwhile  devise  ways  and  means  whereby 
the  matter  might  be  brought  openly  before  the  world";  other 
wise,  the  instructions  proceeded,  the  "  wench  "  whom  the  Prince 
was  about  to  take  to  himself  might  complain  of  being  looked  upon 
as  an  improper  person  ;  as  "  nothing  can  ever  be  kept  secret," 
"  great  scandal  "  would  indeed  arise  were  not  the  true  state  of 
the  case  known.  Besides,  he  fully  intended  to  retain  his  present 
wife  and  to  consider  her  as  a  rightful  spouse,  and  her  children 
alone  were  to  be  the  "  lawful  princes  of  the  land  "  ;  nor  would 
he  ask  for  any  more  wives  beyond  this  second  one.  The  Land 
grave  even  piously  reminds  Luther  and  Melanchthon  "  not  to 
heed  overmuch  the  opinion  of  the  world,  and  human  respect,  but 
to  look  to  God  and  what  He  has  commanded  or  forbidden,  bound 
or  loosened  "  ;  he,  for  his  part,  was  determined  not  to  "  remain 
any  longer  in  the  bonds  of  the  devil." 

Philip  was  careful  also  to  remind  them  that,  if,  after  putting 
into  execution  his  project,  he  was  able  to  "  live  and  die  with  a 
good  conscience,"  he  would  be  "  all  the  more  free  to  fight  for  the 

1  Thus    Philip  to  his  friend,  Duke  Ulrich    of  Wurtemberg,   Oct., 
1540,  when  seeking  to  obtain  his  agreement  to  the  bigamy.     Ulrich, 
however,  advised  him  to  give  up  the  project,  which  would  be  a  great 
blow  to  the  Evangel.     F.  L.  Heyd,  "  Ulrich,  Herzog  von  Wurttem- 
berg,"  3,  p.  226  ff. 

2  Cp.  above,  p.  3  ff.;    also  Enders'  "  Luthers  Brief wechsel,"  12,  p. 
308,  where  it  is  pointed  out  that  in  the  copy  of  the  letter  to  Henry  VIII 
sent  to  Hesse  (ibid.,  9,  p.  81  ff.)  the  passage  in  question  concerning 
bigamy  was  omitted  ;  the  Landgrave  Philip,  however,  learnt  the  con 
tents  of  the  passage,  doubtless  from  Bucer, 

IV.— C 


Evangelical  cause  as  befitted  a  Christian  "  ;  "  whatever  they 
[Luther  and  Melanchthon]  shall  tell  me  is  right  and  Christian — 
whether  it  refers  to  monastic  property  or  to  other  matters — 
that  they  will  find  me  ready  to  carry  out  at  their  behest."  On 
the  other  hand,  as  an  urgent  motive  for  giving  their  consent  to 
his  plan,  he  broadly  hinted,  that,  "  should  he  not  get  any  help 
from  them  "  he  would,  "  by  means  of  an  intermediary,  seek 
permission  of  the  Emperor,  even  though  it  should  cost  me  a  lot 
of  money  "  ;  the  Emperor  would  in  all  likelihood  do  nothing 
without  a  "  dispensation  from  the  Pope  "  ;  but  in  such  a  matter 
of  conscience  neither  the  Pope  nor  the  Emperor  were  of  any  great 
account,  since  he  was  convinced  that  his  "  design  was  approved 
by  God  "  ;  still,  their  consent  (the  Pope  and  Emperor's)  would 
help  to  overcome  "  human  respect  "  ;  hence,  should  he  be  unable 
to  obtain  "  consolation  from  this  party  [the  Evangelical],"  then 
the  sanction  of  the  other  party  was  "  not  to  be  despised."  Con 
cerning  the  request  he  felt  impelled  to  address  to  the  Emperor,  he 
says,  in  words  which  seem  to  convey  a  threat,  that  although  he 
would  not  for  any  reason  on  earth  prove  untrue  to  the  Evangel, 
or  aid  in  the  onslaught  on  the  Evangelical  cause,  yet,  the 
Imperial  party  might  "  use  and  bind  "  him  to  do  things  "  which 
would  not  be  to  the  advantage  of  the  cause."  Hence,  it  was  in 
their  interest  to  assist  him  in  order  that  he  might  "not  be  forced 
to  seek  help  in  quarters  where  he  had  no  wish  to  look  for  it." 

After  again  stating  that  he  "  took  his  stand  on  the  Word 
of  God "  he  concludes  with  a  request  for  the  desired 
"  Christian,  written  "  testimony,  "  in  order  that  thereby 
I  may  amend  my  life,  go  to  the  Sacrament  with  a  good 
conscience  and  further  all  the  affairs  of  our  religion  with 
greater  freedom  and  contentment.  Given  at  Milsungen  on 
the  Sunday  post  Catharine  anno  etc.  39." 

The  Wittenberg  theologians  now  found  themselves  in  a 
quandary.  Luther  says  :  "  We  were  greatly  taken  aback 
at  such  a  declaration  on  account  of  the  frightful  scandal 
which  would  follow."1  Apart  from  other  considerations, 
the  Landgrave  had  already  been  married  sixteen  years  and 
had  a  number  of  sons  and  daughters  by  his  wife  ;  the 
execution  of  the  project  would  also  necessarily  lead  to 
difficulties  at  the  Courts  of  the  Duke  of  Saxony  and  of  the 
Elector,  and  also,  possibly,  at  that  of  the  Duke  of  Wurtem- 
berg.  They  were  unaware  that  Margaret  von  Sale  had 
already  been  chosen  as  a  second  wife,  that  Philip  had 
secured  the  consent  of  his  wife  Christina,  and  that  the  way 

1  Letter  of  Luther  to  the  Elector  of  Saxony.  See  above,  p.  16,  n. 
3,  and  below,  p.  37  f. 


for  a  settlement  with  the  bride's  mother  had  already  been 

The  view  taken  by  Rockwell,  viz.  that  the  form  of  the 
memorandum  to  be  signed  by  Luther  and  Melanchthon 
had  already  been  drawn  up  in  Hesse  by  order  of  Philip,  is, 
however,  erroneous  ;  nor  was  the  document  they  signed  a 
copy  of  such  a  draft.2 

It  is  much  more  likely  that  the  lengthy  favourable  reply 
of  the  Wittenbergcrs  was  composed  by  Melanchthon.  It 
was  signed  with  the  formula  :  ' '  Wittenberg,  Wednesday  after 
St.  Nicholas,  1539.  Your  Serene  Highness's  willing  and 
obedient  servants  [and  the  signatures]  Martinus  Luther, 
Philippus  Melanchthon,  Martinus  Bucerus."3  The  docu 
ment  is  now  among  the  Marburg  archives. 

Characteristically  enough  the  idea  that  the  Landgrave  is,  and 
must  remain,  the  protector  of  the  new  religious  system  appears 
at  the  commencement  as  well  as  at  the  close  of  the  document. 
The  signatories  begin  by  congratulating  the  Prince,  that  God 
"  has  again  helped  him  out  of  sickness,"  and  pray  that  heaven 
may  preserve  him,  for  the  "  poor  Church  of  Christ  is  small 
and  forsaken,  and  indeed  stands  in  need  of  pious  lords  and 
governors  "  ;  at  the  end  God  is  again  implored  to  guide  and 
direct  him  ;  above  all,  the  Landgrave  must  have  nothing  to  do 
with  the  Imperialists. 

The  rest  of  the  document,  apart  from  pious  admonitions, 
consists  of  the  declaration,  that  they  give  their  "  testimony  that, 
in  a  case  of  necessity,"  they  were  "  unable  to  condemn  "  bigamy, 
and  that,  accordingly,  his  "  conscience  may  be  at  rest  "  should 
the  Landgrave  "  utilise  "  the  Divine  dispensation.  In  so  many 
words  they  sanction  the  request  submitted  to  them,  because 
"  what  was  permitted  concerning  matrimony  in  the  Mosaic  Law 
was  not  prohibited  in  the  Gospel."  Concerning  the  circum 
stances  of  the  request  they,  however,  declined  "  to  give  any 
thing  in  print,"  because  otherwise  the  matter  would  be  "  under 
stood  and  accepted  as  a  general  law  and  from  it  [i.e.  a  general 
sanction  of  polygamy]  much  grave  scandal  and  complaint  would 
arise."  The  Landgrave's  wish  that  they  should  speak  of  the  case 
from  the  pulpit,  is  also  passed  over  in  silence.  Nor  did  they 
reply  to  his  invitation  to  them  to  consider  by  what  ways  and 
means  the  matter  might  be  brought  publicly  before  the  world. 

1  Cp.  W.  W.  Rockwell,  "  Die  Doppelehe  des  Landgrafen  Philipp  von 
Hessen,"  Marburg,  1904,  p.  30  ff. 

2  This  error  has  been  confuted  by  Th.  Brieger  on  good  grounds  in 
the  "  Untersuchungen  iiber  Luther  und  die  Nebenehe  des  Landgrafen 
Philipp,"  in  "  Zeitschr.  f.  KG.,"  29,  p.  174  ff.  ;   ibid:,  p.  403  ff.     "  Hist. 
Jahrb.,"  26,  19C5,  p.  405  (N.  Paulus). 

3  Dec.  10,  1539,  "  Luthers  Brief wechsel,"  12,  p.  326. 


On  the  contrary,  they  appear  to  be  intent  on  burying  in  discreet 
silence  a  marriage  so  distasteful  to  them.  It  even  looks  as 
though  they  were  simple  enough  to  think  that  such  concealment 
would  be  possible,  even  in  the  long  run.  What  they  fear  is, 
above  all,  the  consequences  of  its  becoming  common  property. 
In  no  way,  so  they  declare,  was  any  universal  law,  any  "  public 
precedent"  possible,  whereby  a  plurality  of  wives  might  be 
made  lawful ;  according  to  its  original  institution  marriage  had 
signified  "  the  union  of  two  persons  only,  not  of  more  "  ;  but,  in 
view  of  the  examples  of  the  Old  Covenant,  they  "  were  unable 
to  condemn  it,"  if,  in  a  quite  exceptional  case,  "  recourse  were 
had  to  a  dispensation  .  .  .  and  a  man,  with  the  advice  of  his 
pastor,  took  another  wife,  not  with  the  object  of  introducing  a 
law,  but  to  satisfy  his  need." 

As  for  instances  of  such  permission  having  been  given  in  the 
Church,  they  were  able  to  quote  only  two  :  First,  the  purely 
legendary  case  of  Count  Ernest  of  Gleichen — then  still  regarded 
as  historical— who,  during  his  captivity  among  the  Turks  in 
1228,  had  married  his  master's  daughter,  and,  then,  after  his 
escape,  and  after  having  learnt  that  his  wife  was  still  living, 
applied  for  and  obtained  a  Papal  dispensation  for  bigamy  ; 
secondly,  the  alleged  practice  in  cases  of  prolonged  and  incurable 
illness,  such  as  leprosy,  to  permit,  occasionally,  the  man  to  take 
another  wife.  The  latter,  however,  can  only  refer  to  Luther's 
own  practice,  or  to  that  followed  by  the  teachers  of  the  new 
faith.1  In  1526  Luther  had  informed  the  Landgrave  that  this 
was  allowable  in  case  of  "  dire  necessity,"  "  for  instance,  where 
the  wife  was  leprous,  or  had  been  otherwise  rendered  unfit."2 
Acting  upon  this  theory  he  was  soon  to  give  a  decision  in  a 
particular  case  ;3  in  May  or  June,  1540,  he  even  stated  that  he 
had  several  times,  when  one  of  the  parties  had  contracted 
leprosy,  privately  sanctioned  the  bigamy  of  the  healthy  party, 
whether  man  or  woman.4 

They  are  at  great  pains  to  impress  on  the  Landgrave  that  he 
must  "  take  every  possible  care  that  this  matter  be  not  made 
public  in  the  world,"  otherwise  the  dispensation  would  be  taken 
as  a  precedent  by  others,  and  also  would  be  made  to  serve  as  a 
weapon  against  them  and  the  Evangel."  "  Hence,  seeing  how 
great  scandal  would  be  caused,  we  humbly  beg  your  Serene 
Highness  to  take  this  matter  into  serious  consideration." 

They  also  admonish  him  "  to  avoid  fornication  and  adultery  "  ; 
they  had  learnt  with  "  great  sorrow  "  that  the  Landgrave  "  was 
burdened  with  such  evil  lusts,  of  which  the  consequences  to  be 

[ !  Unless  the  reference  bo  to  certain  reputed  consulta  of  Gregory  II 
or  of  Alexander  III.  Cp.  "  P.L.,"  Ixxxix.,  525,  and  Deer.  IV,  15,  iii. 
Note  to  English  Ed.~\ 

2  See  above,  p.  14. 

3  Cp.  Luther's  "  Consideration,"  dated  Aug.  23,   1527,  concerning 
the  husband  of  a  leprous  wife,  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  53,  p.  406  ("  Brief 
wechsel,"  6,  p.  80),  where  he  says  :    "  I  can  in  no  wise  prevent  him  or 
forbid  his  taking  another  wedded  wife."    He  here  takes  for  granted  the 
consent  of  the  leprous  party.       4  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  141. 


feared  were  the  Divine  punishment,  illness  and  other  perils ' ' ; 
such  conduct,  outside  of  matrimony,  was  "  no  small  sin  " — as 
they  proceed  to  prove  from  Scripture  ;  they  rejoiced,  however, 
that  the  Prince  felt  "  pain  and  remorse  "  for  what  he  had  done. 
Although  monogamy  was  in  accordance  with  the  original  institu 
tion  of  marriage,  yet  it  was  their  duty  to  tell  him  that,"  seeing 
that  your  Serene  Highness  has  informed  us  that  you  are  not  able 
to  refrain  from  an  immoral  life,  we  would  rather  that  your  High 
ness  should  be  in  a  better  state  before  God,  and  live  with  a  good 
conscience  for  your  Highness's  own  salvation  and  the  good  of  your 
land  and  people.  And,  as  your  Serene  Highness  has  determined 
to  take  another  wife,  we  consider  that  this  should  be  kept  secret, 
no  less  than  the  dispensation,  viz.  that  your  Serene  Highness  and 
the  lady  in  question,  and  a  few  other  trustworthy  persons,  should 
be  apprised  of  your  Highness's  conscience  and  state  of  mind  in 
the  way  of  confession." 

"  From  this,"  they  continue,  "  no  great  gossip  or  scandal  will 
result,  for  it  is  not  unusual  for  Princes  to  keep  '  concubinas,'  and, 
though  not  everyone  is  aware  of  the  circumstances,  yet  reason 
able  people  will  bear  this  in  mind  and  be  better  pleased  with 
such  a  manner  of  life  than  with  adultery  or  dissolute  and  immoral 

Yet,  once  again,  they  point  out  that,  were  the  bigamy  to 
become  a  matter  of  public  knowledge,  the  opinion  would  gain 
ground  that  polygamy  was  perfectly  lawful  to  all,  and  that 
everyone  might  follow  the  precedent ;  the  result  would  also  be 
that  the  enemies  of  the  Evangel  would  cry  out  that  the  Evangeli 
cals  were  not  one  whit  better  than  the  Anabaptists,  who  were 
likewise  polygamists  and,  in  fact,  just  the  same  as  the  Turks. 
Further,  the  great  Lords  would  be  the  first  to  give  the  example 
to  private  persons  to  do  likewise.  As  it  was,  the  Hessian  aristoc 
racy  was  bad  enough,  and  many  of  its  members  were  strongly 
opposed  to  the  Evangel  on  earthly  grounds  ;  these  would 
become  still  more  hostile  were  the  bigamy  to  become  publicly 
known.  Lastly,  the  Prince  must  bear  in  mind  the  injury  to  his 
"  good  name  "  which  the  tidings  of  his  act  would  cause  amongst 
foreign  potentates. 

A  paragraph  appended  to  the  memorandum  is,  accord 
ing  to  recent  investigation,  from  Luther's  own  pen  and,  at 
any  rate,  is  quite  in  his  style.1  It  refers  to  Philip's  threat 
to  seek  the  Emperor's  intervention,  a  step  which  would  not 
have  been  at  all  to  the  taste  of  the  Wittenbergers,  for  it  was 
obvious  that  this  would  cripple  Philip's  action  as  Protector 
of  the  Evangelicals.  This  menace  had  plainly  excited  and 
troubled  Luther.  He  declares  in  the  concluding  sentences, 
that  the  Emperor  before  whom  the  Prince  threatened  to 
lay  the  case,  was  a  man  who  looked  upon  adultery  as  a 

1  Cp.  the  remarks  in  "  Luthers  Brief wechsel,"  12,  p.  327  f.,  and 
Brieger,  loc.  cit.,  p.  192. 


small  sin  ;  there  was  great  reason  to  fear  that  he  shared 
the  faith  of  the  Pope,  Cardinals,  Italians,  Spaniards  and 
Saracens  ;  he  would  pay  no  heed  to  the  Prince's  request 
but  only  use  him  as  a  cat's-paw.  They  had  found  him  out 
to  be  a  false  and  faithless  man,  who  had  forgotten  the  true 
German  spirit.  The  Emperor,  as  the  Landgrave  might  see 
for  himself,  did  not  trouble  himself  about  any  Christian 
concerns,  left  the  Turks  unopposed  and  was  only  interested 
in  fomenting  plots  in  Germany  for  the  increase  of  the 
Burgundian  power.  Hence  it  was  to  be  hoped  that  pious 
German  Princes  would  have  nothing  to  do  with  his  faithless 

Such  are  the  contents  of  Luther  and  Melanchthon's 
written  reply.  Bucer,  glad  of  the  success  achieved,  at  once 
proceeded  with  the  memorandum  to  the  Electoral  Court. 

This  theological  document,  the  like  of  which  had  never 
been  seen,  is  unparalleled  in  the  whole  of  Church  history. 
Seldom  indeed  has  exegetical  waywardness  been  made  to 
serve  a  more  momentous  purpose.  The  Elector,  Johann 
Frederick  of  Saxony,  was,  at  a  later  date,  quite  horrified, 
as  he  said,  at  "  a  business  the  like  of  which  had  not  been 
heard  of  for  many  ages."1  Sidonie,  the  youthful  Duchess 
of  Saxony,  complained  subsequently,  that,  "  since  the 
Birth  of  Christ,  no  one  had  done  such  a  thing."2  Bucer's 
fears  had  not  been  groundless  "  of  the  scandal  of  such  an 
innovation  in  a  matter  of  so  great  importance  and  difficulty 
among  the  weak  followers  of  the  Evangel."3 

Besides  this,  the  sanction  of  bigamy  given  in  the  docu 
ment  in  question  is  treated  almost  as  though  it  denoted  the 
commencement  of  a  more  respectable  mode  of  life  incapable 
of  giving  any  "  particular  scandal "  ;  for  amongst  the 
common  people  the  newly  wedded  wife  would  be  looked 
upon  as  a  concubine,  and  such  it  was  quite  usual  for  Princes 
to  keep.  Great  stress  is  laid  on  the  fact  that  the  secret 
bigamy  would  prevent  adultery  and  other  immorality. 
Apart,  however,  from  these  circumstances,  the  sanctioning, 
largely  on  the  strength  of  political  considerations,  of  an 

1  Seckendorf,  "  Commentarius  de  Lutheranismo,"  3,  1694,  p.  278. 

2  E.  Brandenburg,  "  Politische  Korrespondenz  des  Herzogs  Moritz 
von  Sachsen,"  2,  1903,  p.  101. 

3  Sailer  to  Philip  of  Hesse,  Nov.  6,  1539,  "  Briefwechsel  Philipps," 
1,  p.  345  ;   above,  p.  15.       Other  similar  statements  by  contemporaries 
are  to  be  found  in  the  article  of  N.  Paulus  (above,  p.  15,  n.  1). 


exception  to  the  universal  New-Testament  prohibition,  is 
painful.  Anyone,  however  desirous  of  finding  extenuating 
circumstances  for  Luther's  decision,  can  scarcely  fail  to 
be  shocked  at  this  fact.  The  only  excuse  that  might  be 
advanced  would  be,  that  Philip,  by  his  determination  to 
take  this  step  and  his  threat  of  becoming  reconciled  to  the 
Emperor,  exercised  pressure  tantamount  to  violence,  and 
that  the  weight  of  years,  his  scorn  for  the  Church's  matri 
monial  legislation  and  his  excessive  regard  for  his  own 
interpretation  of  the  Old  Testament  helped  Luther  to 
signify  his  assent  to  a  plan  so  portentous. 

The  Bigamy  is  Consummated  and  made  Public. 

The  object  of  Bucer's  hasty  departure  for  the  Court  of 
the  Elector  Johann  Frederick  of  Saxony  was  to  dispose  him 
favourably  towards  the  impending  marriage.  In  accord 
ance  with  his  instructions  from  Hesse,  he  was  to  submit 
to  this  Prince  the  same  arguments  which  had  served  him 
with  the  two  Wittenbergers,  for  the  superscription  of  the 
instructions  ran  :  "  What  Dr.  Martin  Bucer  is  to  demand 
of  D.  Martin  Luther  and  Philip  Melanchthon,  and,  should 
he  see  fit,  after  that  also  of  the  Elector."1  In  addition  to 
this  he  had  in  the  meantime  received  special  instructions 
for  this  delicate  mission  to  Weimar.2 

The  Landgrave  looked  upon  an  understanding  with  the 
Elector  as  necessary,  not  merely  on  account  of  his  relation 
ship  with  him  and  out  of  consideration  for  Christina  his 
first  wife,  who  belonged  to  the  House  of  Saxony,  but  also 
on  account  of  the  ccclesiastico-political  alliance  in  which 
they  stood,  which  made  the  Elector's  support  seem  to  him 
quite  as  essential  as  the  sanction  of  the  Wittenberg  theo 

Bucer  treated  with  Johann  Frederick  at  Weimar  on  15 
or  16  Dec.  and  reached  some  sort  of  understanding,  as  we 
learn  from  the  Elector's  written  reply  to  the  Landgrave 
bearing  the  latter  date.  Bucer  represents  him  as  saying  : 
If  it  is  impossible  to  remove  the  scandal  caused  by  the 
Landgrave's  life  in  any  other  way,  he  would  ask,  as  a 

1  "  Luthers  Brief wechsel,"  12,  p.  301. 

2  "  Philipps  Briefwechsel,"  1,  p.  356  ff.,  and  Burkhardt,  "  Luthers 
Brief  wechsel,"  p.  388. 


brother,  that  the  plan  should  not  be  executed  in  any  other 
way  than  "  that  contained  in  our — Dr.  Luther's,  Philip's 
and  my  own — writing  "  ;  upon  this  he  was  unable  to 
improve  ;  he  was  also  ready  to  "  lend  him  fraternal  assist 
ance  in  every  way  "  should  any  complications  arise  from 
this  step.1  In  return,  in  accordance  with  the  special  instruc 
tions  given  to  Buccr,  he  received  from  the  Landgrave 
various  political  concessions  of  great  importance  :  viz. 
support  in  the  matter  of  the  Duke  of  Cleves,  help  in  his 
difficulties  about  Magdeburg,  the  eventual  renunciation 
of  Philip's  title  to  the  inheritance  of  his  father-in-law, 
Duke  George,  and,  finally,  the  promise  to  push  his  claims 
to  the  Imperial  crown  after  the  death  of  Charles  V,  or  in  the 
event  of  the  partitioning  of  the  Empire. 

The  Elector,  like  his  theologians,  was  not  aware  that  the 
"  lady  "  (she  is  never  actually  named)  had  already  been 
chosen.  Margaret  von  der  Sale,  who  was  then  only  seventeen 
years  of  age,  was  the  daughter  of  a  lady-in-waiting  to 
Philip's  sister,  Elisabeth,  Duchess  of  Rochlitz.  Her  mother, 
Anna  von  der  Sale,  an  ambitious  lady  of  the  lower  nobility, 
had  informed  the  Landgrave  that  she  must  stipulate  for 
certain  privileges.  As  soon  as  Philip  had  received  the 
replies  from  Wittenberg  and  Weimar,  on  Dec.  23,  1539,  the 
demands  of  the  mother  were  at  once  settled  by  persons 
vested  with  the  necessary  authority.  Even  before  this,  on 
the  very  day.  of  the  negotiations  with  Luther,  Dec.  11,  the 
Landgrave  and  his  wife  Christina  had  each  drawn  up  a 
formal  deed  concerning  wrhat  was  about  to  take  place  : 
Christina  agreed  to  Philip's  "  taking  another  wedded  wife  " 
and  promised  that  she  would  never  on  that  account  be 
unfriendly  to  the  Landgrave,  his  second  wife,  or  her  children  ; 
Philip  pledged  himself  not  to  countenance  any  claim  to  the 
Landgraviate  on  the  part  of  any  issue  by  the  second  wife 
during  the  lifetime  of  Christina's  two  sons,  but  to  provide 
for  such  issue  by  means  of  territories  situated  outside  his 
own  dominions.2  Such  was  the  assurance  with  which  he 
proceeded  towards  the  cherished  goal. 

Several  Hessian  theologians  of  the  new  faith,  for  instance, 
the  preacher  Dionysius  Melander,  a  personal  friend  of  the 
Landgrave's,  and  Johann  Lening  were  on  his  side.3  To  the 

"  Philipps  Brief wechsel,"  1,  p.  308.     Cp.  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  30. 
2  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  31.  3  Ibid.,  p.  37. 


memorandum  composed  by  Luther  and  Melanchthon  the 
signatures  of  both  the  above-mentioned  were  subsequently 
added,  as  well  as  those  of  Anton  Corvinus,  then  pastor  at 
Witzenhausen,  of  Adam  Fuldensis  (Kraft),  then  Superin 
tendent  at  Marburg,  of  Justus  Winther — since  1532  Court 
Schoolmaster  at  Cassel  and,  from  1542,  Superintendent  at 
Rotenburg  on  the  Fulda — and  of  Balthasar  Rhaide  (Raid), 
pastor  at  Hersfeld,  who,  as  Imperial  Notary,  certified  the 
marriage.  The  signature  of  the  last  was,  however,  subse 
quently  erased.1 

About  the  middle  of  Jan.,  1540,  Philip  informed  the  more 
prominent  Councillors  and  theologians  that  he  would  soon 
carry  out  his  project.  When  everything  was  ready  the 
marriage  was  celebrated  on  March  4  in  the  Castle  of  Roten 
burg  on  the  Fulda  by  the  Court  Chaplain,  Dionysius 
Melander,  in  the  presence  of  Bucer  and  Melanchthon  ;  were 
also  present  the  Commandant  of  the  Wartburg,  Eberhard 
von  der  Thann,  representing  the  Elector  of  Saxony,  Pastor 
Balthasar  Rhaide,  the  Hessian  Chancellor  Johann  Feige  of 
Lichtenau,  the  Marshal  Hermann  von  Hundelshausen, 
Rudolf  Schenk  zu  Schweinsberg  (Landvogt  of  Eschwege  on 
the  Werra),  Hermann  von  der  Malsburg,  a  nobleman,  and 
the  mother  of  the  bride,  Anna  von  der  Sale.2  The  draft  of 
the  short  discourse  still  exists  with  which  the  Landgrave 
intended  to  open  the  ceremony.  Melander  delivered  the 
formal  wedding  address.  On  the  following  day  Melanchthon 
handed  the  Landgrave  an  "  admonition,"  i.e.  a  sort  of 
petition,  in  which  he  warmly  recommended  to  his  care  the 
welfare  of  education.  It  is  possible  that  when  summoned, 
to  Rotenburg  from  a  meeting  of  the  Schmalkalden  League 
at  which  he  had  been  assisting,  he  was  unaware  of  the 
object  of  the  invitation.  Subsequent  explanations,  furnished 
at  the  last  moment,  by  Melander  and  Lening,  seem  to  have 
drawn  a  protest  from  Melanchthon  which  roused  the  anger 
of  the  two  preachers.  This  shows  that  "  everything  did 
not  pass  off  smoothly  at  Rotenburg."3  Both  were,  not  long 
after,  stigmatised  by  Melanchthon  as  "  ineruditi  homines  " 
and  made  chiefly  responsible  for  the  lax  principles  of  the 
Landgrave.4  Luther  tried  later  to  represent  Lening,  the 

1  "Luthers  Briefwechsel,"  12,  pp.  326  and  328. 

2  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  43.  3  Ibid.,  p.  41  f. 

4  Melanchthon  to  Camerarius,  Sep.  1,  1540,  first  fully  published  by 
Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  194. 


"  monster,"  as  the  man  by  whom  the  idea  of  the  bigamy, 
a  source  of  extreme  embarrassment  to  the  Wittenbergers, 
had  first  been  hatched.1 

Although  the  Landgrave  was  careful  to  preserve  secrecy 
concerning  the  new  marriage — already  known  to  so  many 
persons, — permitting  only  the  initiate  to  visit  the  "  lady," 
and  even  forbidding  her  to  attend  Divine  Worship,  still  the 
news  of  what  had  taken  place  soon  leaked  out.  "  Palpable 
signs  appeared  in  the  building  operations  commenced  at 
Weissenstein,  and  also  in  the  despatch  of  a  cask  of  wine  to 
Luther."2  At  Weissenstein,  in  the  former  monastery  near 
Cassel,  now  Wilhelmshohe,  an  imposing  residence  was 
fitted  up  for  Margaret  von  der  Sale.  In  a  letter  of  May  24, 
1540,  to  Philip,  Luther  expresses  his  thanks  for  the  gift  of 
wine  :  "  I  have  received  your  Serene  Highness's  present  of 
the  cask  of  Rhine  wine  and  thank  your  Serene  Highness 
most  humbly.  May  our  dear  Lord  God  keep  and  preserve 
you  body  and  soul.  Amen."3  Katey  also  received  a  gift 
from  the  Prince,  for  which  Luther  returned  thanks  on 
Aug.  22,  though  without  mentioning  its  nature.4  On  the 
cask  of  wine  and  its  destination  the  Schultheiss  of  Lohra 
spoke  "  openly  before  all  the  peasants,"  so  Anton  Corvinus 
informed  the  Landgrave  on  May  25,  saying  that  :  "  Your 
Serene  Highness  has  taken  another  wife,  of  which  he  was 
perfectly  sure,  and  your  Serene  Highness  is  now  sending  a 
cask  of  wine  to  Luther  because  he  gave  your  Serene  High 
ness  permission  to  do  such  a  thing."5 

On  June  9  Jonas  wrote  from  Wittenberg,  where  he  was  staying 
with  Luther — who  himself  was  as  silent  as  the  tornb — to  George 
of  Anhalt  :  Both  in  the  Meissen  district  and  at  Wittenberg  there 
is  "much  gossip"  ( '  ingens  jama  ' )  of  bigamy  with  a  certain  von 
Sale,  though,  probably,  it  was  only  "  question  of  a  concubine."6 

1  To  Justus  Menius,  Jan.  10,  1542,  "  Brief e,"  ed.  De  Wette,  5,  p.  426. 
To  Chancellor  Briick,  soon  after  Jan.  10,  1542,  ibid.,  4,  p.  296.  Melanch- 
thon  wrote  to  Veit  Dietrich  on  Dec.    11,    1541,  concerning  Lening  : 
"  Monstroso  corpore  et  animo  est." 

2  Thus  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  48  f. 

3  "  Philipps  Briefwechsel,"  1,  p.  362  f.    Rockwell's  statement,  p.  45, 
that  Luther  had  been  offered  200  Gulden  by  the  Landgrave  as  a  present, 
but  had  refused  the  gift,  is,  in  both  instances,  founded  on  a  misunder 
standing.    Cp.  N.  Paulus,  "  Hist.  Jahrb.,"  1905,  p.  405. 

4  Luther  to  the  Landgrave,  Aug.  22,  1540,  "  Philipps  Briefwechsel," 
1,  p.  389. 

6  "Briefwechsel  des  Corvinus,"  (see  p.  14,  n.  2),  p.  79.  Paulus, 
ibid.,  p.  563. 

6  "  Briefwechsel  des  Jonas,"  ed.  G.  Kawerau,  1,  p.  394. 


Five  days  later,  however,  he  relates,  that  "  at  Wiirzburg  and 
similar  [Catholic]  localities  the  Papists  and  Canons  were  ex 
pressing  huge  delight  "  over  the  bigamy.1 

The  behaviour  of  the  Landgrave's  sister  had  helped  to  spread 
the  news.  On  March  13  the  Landgrave,  through  Marshal  von 
Hundelshausen,  had  informed  the  latter  of  the  fact,  as  he  had 
formally  promised  Margaret's  mother  to  do.  The  "  lady  began 
to  weep,  made  a  great  outcry  and  abused  Luther  and  Bucer  as 
a  pair  of  incarnate  scamps."2  She  was  unable  to  reconcile  her 
self  to  the  bigamy  or  to  refrain  from  complaining  to  others.  "  My 
angry  sister  has  been  unable  to  hold  her  tongue."  wrote  the 
Landgrave  Philip  on  June  8.3  The  Ducal  Court  of  Saxony  at 
Dresden  was  anxious  for  reliable  information.  Duke  Henry  was 
a  patron  of  Lutheranism,  but  one  of  the  motives  for  his  curiosity 
in  this  matter  is  to  be  found  in  the  fact  that  the  Landgrave  was 
claiming  a  portion  of  the  inheritance  of  the  late  Duke  George,  who 
had  died  on  April  17,  1539.  In  accordance  with  Henry's  orders 
Anna  von  der  Sale,  as  a  subject  of  the  Saxon  duchy,  was  removed 
by  force  on  June  3  from  her  residence  at  Schonfeld  and  carried 
to  Dresden.  There  the  mother  confessed  everything  and 
declared,  not  without  pride,  that  her  daughter  Margaret  "  was 
as  much  the  rightful  wife  of  the  Landgrave  as  Christina."4  About 
Whitsun  the  Landgrave  personally  admitted  the  fact  to  Maurice 
of  Saxony. 

The  Court  of  Dresden  at  once  informed  the  Elector  of  Saxony 
of  its  discovery  and  of  the  very  unfavourable  manner  in  w^hich 
the  news  had  been  received,  and  the  latter,  in  turn,  communi 
cated  it,  through  Chancellor  Briick,  to  Luther  and  Melanchthon. 

The  Elector  Johann  Frederick,  in  view  of  the  change  of  circum 
stances,  became  more  and  more  vexed  with  the  marriage.  To 
a  certain  extent  he  stood  under  the  influence  of  Elisabeth  Duchess 
of  Rochlitz.  In  his  case,  too,  the  question  of  property  played  a 
part,  viz.  whether,  in  view  of  the  understanding  existing  between 
Hesse  and  Saxony  as  to  the  succession,  the  children  of  the  second 
wife  were  to  become  the  heirs  in  the  event  of  the  death  of  the 
children  of  the  first  wife,  this  being  what  the  Landgrave  de 
manded.  Above  all,  however,  the  cautious  Elector  was  anxious 
about  the  attitude  of  the  Empire  and  Emperor.  He  feared  lest 
steps  should  be  taken  against  the  general  scandal  which  had  been 
given  and  to  obviate  the  danger  of  the  spread  of  polygamous 
ideas.  Hence  he  was  not  far  from  withdrawing  from  Luther  the 
favour  he  had  hitherto  shown  him,  the  more  so  now  that  the 
Court  of  Dresden  was  intent  on  raising  trouble  against  all  who 
had  furthered  the  Landgrave's  plan. 

Meanwhile  the  news  rapidly  spread,  partly  owing  to  persons 
belonging  to  the  Court.  It  reached  King  Ferdinand,  and,  by  him, 

1  "  Brief wechsel  des  Jonas,"  ed.  G.  Kawerau,  p.  397. 

2  Account  of  the  Marshal  in  "  Philipps  Briefwechsel,"  1,  p.  335. 

3  To  Anthony  von  Schonberg,  in  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  51,  according  to 
information  taken  from  the  archives. 

4  Rockwell,  loc.  cit.,  p.  53. 


and  still  more  by  Morone,  the  Nuncio,  it  was  carried  to  the 

Morone  wrote  on  June  15,  from  the  religious  conference  then 
proceeding  at  Hagenau,  to  Cardinal  Farnese  at  Rome  :  "  During 
the  lifetime  of  his  first  wife,  a  daughter  of  Duke  George  of  Saxony 
of  good  memory,  the  Landgrave  of  Hesse,  has,  as  we  hear,  taken 
a  second  wife,  a  lady  of  distinction,  von  der  Sale  by  name,  a 
native  of  Saxony.  It  is  said,  his  theologians  teach  that  it  is  not 
forbidden  to  Christians  to  have  several  wives,  except  in  the  case 
of  a  Bishop,  because  there  is  no  such  prohibition  in  Holy  Scrip 
ture.  I  can  hardly  credit  it,  but  since  God  has  '  given  them  over 
to  a  reprobate  mind  '  [Rom.  i.  28]  and  as  the  King  has  assured 
me  that  he  has  heard  it  from  several  quarters,  I  give  you  the 
report  for  what  it  is  worth."1 

Philip  of  Hesse,  who  was  already  in  disgrace  with  the 
Emperor  on  account  of  his  expedition  into  Wurtembcrg 
and  his  support  of  Duke  Ulrich,  knew  the  penalties  which 
he  might  expect  unless  he  found  some  means  of  escape. 
The  "  Carolina  "  (1532)  decreed  "  capital  punishment  " 
against  bigamists,  no  less  than  against  adulterers.2  The 
Landgrave  himself  was  even  fully  prepared  to  forfeit  one- 
third  of  his  possessions  should  it  be  impossible  to  arrive 
otherwise  at  a  settlement.3  He  now  openly  declared — as 
he  had  already  hinted  he  would — that,  in  case  of  necessity, 
he  would  make  humble  submission  to  the  Emperor  ;  if  the 
worst  came  to  the  worst,  then  he  would  also  make  public 
the  memorandum  he  had  received  from  Wittenberg  in  order 
to  exculpate  himself — a  threat  which  filled  the  Elector  with 
alarm  on  account  of  his  University  and  of  Luther. 

Bucer,  the  first  to  be  summoned  to  the  aid  of  the  Hessian 
Court,  advised  the  Landgrave  to  escape  from  his  unfortu 
nate  predicament  by  downright  lying.  He  wrote  :  If 
concealment  and  equivocation  should  prove  of  no  avail,  he 
was  to  state  in  writing  that  false  rumours  concerning  his 
person  had  come  into  circulation,  and  that  no  Christian  was 
allowed  to  have  two  wives  at  the  same  time  ;  he  was  also 
to  replace  the  marriage-contract  by  another  contract  in 

1  Rockwell,  loc.  cit.,  p.  60. 

"Carolina,"  ed.  Kohler,  1900,  p.  63.  Cp.  the  Imperial  Law 
"  Neminem  "  in  "  Corp.  iur.  civ.,  Cod.  lusiin.,"  ed.  Krtiger,  1877,  p.  198. 
Bucer  pointed  out  to  the  Landgrave,  that  "  according  to  the  common 
law  of  the  Empire  such  things  were  punished  by  death."  "  Philipps 
Brief wechsel,"  1,  p.  177  ;  cp.  pp.  178,  180. 

3  He  declared  on  Jan.  3,  1541  :  "  This  much  and  not  more  the  law 
may  take  from  us." 


which  Margaret  might  be  described  as  a  concubine — such 
as  God  had  allowed  to  His  beloved  friends — and  not  as  a 
wife  within  the  meaning  of  the  calamitous  Imperial  Law  ; 
an  effort  was  also  to  be  made  to  induce  the  Court  of  Dresden 
to  keep  silence,  or  to  deny  any  knowledge  of  the  business, 
and,  in  the  meantime,  the  "  lady  "  might  be  kept  even 
more  carefully  secluded  than  before.1 

The  Landgrave's  reply  was  violent  in  the  extreme.  He 
indignantly  rejected  Bucer's  suggestion  ;  the  dissimulation 
alleged  to  have  been  practised  by  others,  notably  by  the 
Patriarchs,  Judges,  Kings  and  Prophets,  etc.,  in  no  wise 
proved  the  lawfulness  of  lying  ;  Bucer  had  "  been  instigated 
to  make  such  proposals  by  some  worldly-wise  persons  and 
jurists  whom  we  know  well."2  Philip  wrote  to  the  same 
effect  to  the  Lutheran  theologians,  Schnepf,  Osiander  and 
Brenz,  who  urged  him  to  deny  that  Margaret  was  his  lawful 
wife  :  "  That,  when  once  the  matter  has  become  quite 
public,  we  should  assert  that  it  was  invalid,  this  we  cannot 
bring  ourselves  to  do.  We  cannot  tell  a  lie,  for  to  lie  does 
not  become  any  man.  And,  moreover,  God  has  forbidden 
lying.  So  long  as  it  is  possible  we  shall  certainly  reply 
'  dubitative  '  or  '  per  amphibologiam,'  but  to  say  that  it  is  in 
valid,  such  advice  you  may  give  to  another,  but  not  to  us."3 

The  "  amphibologia  "  had  been  advised  by  the  Hessian 
theologians,  who  had  pointed  out  that  Margaret  could  best 
be  described  to  the  Imperial  Court  of  Justice  as  a  "  concu- 
bina,"  since,  in  the  language  of  the  Old  Testament,  as  also 
in  that  of  the  ancient  Church,  this  word  had  sometimes 
been  employed  to  describe  a  lawful  wife.4  They  also  wrote 
to  Luther  and  Melanchthon,  fearing  that  they  might  desert 
the  Landgrave,  telling  them  that  they  were  expected  to 
stand  by  their  memorandum.  Although  they  were  in 
favour  of  secrecy,  yet  they  wished  that,  in  case  of  necessity, 
the  Wittenbergers  should  publicly  admit  their  share.  Good 
care  would  be  taken  to  guard  against  the  general  introduc 
tion  of  polygamy.5 

1  On  July  8,  1540,  ibid.,  p.  178  ff.  Before  this,  on  June  15,  he  had 
exhorted  the  Landgrave  to  hush  up  the  matter  as  far  as  possible  so 
that  the  whole  Church  may  not  be  "  denied  "  by  it.  Ibid.,  p.  174, 
Paulus,  loc.  cit.,  p.  507.  2  "  Philipps  Briefwechsel,"  1,  p.  185  f. 

3  Ibid.,  p.  183.  4  Ibid.,  p.  341. 

5  "  Analecta  Lutherana,"  ed.  Kolde,  p.  353  seq.  Cp.  Rockwell, 
loc.  cit.,  p.  71,  n.  1. 


Dispensation  ;  Advice  in  Confession  ;   a  Confessor's  Secret  ? 

Was  the  document  signed  by  Luther,  Melanchthon  and 
Bucer  a  dispensation  for  bigamy  ? 

It  has  been  so  described.  But,  even  according  to  the 
very  wording  of  the  memorandum,  the  signatories  had  no 
intention  of  issuing  a  dispensation.  On  the  contrary, 
according  to  the  text,  they,  as  learned  theologians,  declared 
that  the  Divine  Law,  as  they  understood  it,  gave  a  general 
sanction,  according  to  which,  in  cases  such  as  that  of  Philip 
of  Hesse,  polygamy  was  allowed.  It  is  true  that  they  and 
Philip  himself  repeatedly  use  the  word  "  dispensation," 
but  by  this  they  meant  to  describe  the  alleged  general 
sanction  in  accordance  with  which  the  law  admitted  of 
exceptions  in  certain  cases,  hence  their  preference  for  the 
term  "  to  use  "  the  dispensation,  instead  of  the  more  usual 
"  to  beg  "  or  "  to  grant."  Philip  is  firmly  resolved  "  to 
use  "  the  dispensation  brought  to  his  knowledge  by  Luther's 
writings,  and  the  theologians,  taking  their  cue  from  him, 
likewise  speak  of  his  "  using  "  it  in  his  own  case.1 

It  was  the  same  with  the  "  dispensation  "  which  the 
Wittenbergers  proposed  to  Henry  VIII  of  England.  (See 
above,  p.  4  f.)  They  had  no  wish  to  invest  him  with  an 
authority  which,  according  to  their  ideas,  he  did  not  possess, 
but  they  simply  drew  his  attention  to  the  freedom  common 
to  all,  and  declared  by  them  to  be  bestowed  by  God,  viz. 
in  his  case,  of  taking  a  second  wife,  telling  him  that  he  was 
free  to  have  recourse  to  this  dispensation.  In  other  words, 
they  gave  him  the  power  to  dispense  himself,  regardless  of 
ecclesiastical  laws  and  authorities. 

Another  question  :  How  far  was  the  substance  of  the 
advice  given  in  the  Hessian  case  to  be  regarded  as  a  secret  ? 
Can  it  really  be  spoken  of  as  a  "  counsel  given  in  confession," 
or  as  a  "  secret  of  the  confessional  "  ? 

This  question  later  became  of  importance  in  the  negotia 
tions  which  turned  upon  the  memorandum.  In  order  to 
answer  it  without  prejudice  it  is  essential  in  the  first  place 
to  point  out,  that  the  subsequent  interpretations  and 
evasions  must  not  here  be  taken  into  account.  The  actual 

1  E.  Friedberg  remarks  in  the  "  Deutsche  Zeitschr.  f.  KR.,"  36, 
1904,  p.  441,  that  the  Wittenbergers  "  did  not  even  possess  any  power 
of  dispensing." 


wording  of  the  document  and  its  attendant  historical 
circumstances  have  alone  to  be  taken  into  consideration, 
abstraction  being  made  of  the  fine  distinctions  and  meanings 
afterwards  read  into  it. 

First,  there  is  110  doubt  that  both  the  Landgrave's 
request  for  the  Wittenberg  testimony  and  its  granting  were 
intended  to  be  confidential  and  not  public.  Philip  naturally 
assumed  that  the  most  punctilious  secrecy  would  be  pre 
served  so  long  as  no  decision  had  been  arrived  at,  seeing 
that  he  had  made  confidential  disclosures  concerning  his 
immorality  in  pleading  for  a  second  marriage.  The 
Wittenbergers,  as  they  explicitly  state,  gave  their  reply 
not  merely  unwillingly,  with  repugnance  and  with  great 
apprehension  of  the  scandal  which  might  ensue,  but  also 
most  urgently  recommended  Philip  to  keep  the  bigamy  to 
himself.  Both  the  request  and  the  theological  testimony 
accordingly  came  under  the  natural  obligation  of  silence, 
i.e.  under  the  so-called  confidential  seal  of  secrecy.  This, 
however,  was  of  course  broken  when  the  suppliant  on  his 
part  allowed  the  matter  to  become  public  ;  in  such  a  case 
no  one  could  grudge  the  theologians  the  natural  right  of 
bringing  forward  everything  that  was  required  for  their 
justification,  even  to  the  reasons  which  had  determined 
them  to  give  their  consent,  though  of  course  they  were 
in  honour  bound  to  show  the  utmost  consideration  ;  for 
this  the  petitioner  himself  was  alone  to  blame. 

As  a  matter  of  fact,  however,  strange  though  it  may 
seem,  Philip's  intention  all  along  had  been  ultimately  to 
make  the  marriage  public.  It  cannot  be  proved  that  he 
ever  made  any  written  promise  to  observe  the  recommenda 
tion  of  absolute  secrecy  made  by  the  theologians.  Those 
who  drew  up  the  memorandum  disregarded  his  wish  for 
publicity,  and,  on  the  contrary,  u  advised  "  that  the  matter 
should  be  kept  a  dead  secret.  Yet  ought  they  not  to  have 
foreseen  that  a  Prince  so  notoriously  unscrupulous  would 
be  likely  to  disregard  their  "  advice  "  ?  The  theologians 
were  certainly  no  men  of  the  world  if  they  really  believed 
that  the  Landgrave's  bigamy — and  their  memorandum  by 
which  it  was  justified— would  or  could  remain  concealed. 
They  themselves  had  allowed  a  number  of  other  parties  to 
be  initiated  into  the  secret,  nor  was  it  difficult  to  foresee  that 
Philip,  and  Margaret's  ambitious  mother,  would  not  allow 


the  stigma  of  concubinage  to  rest  permanently  on  the  newly 
wedded  bride.  The  mother  had  expressly  stipulated  that 
Margaret  should  be  treated  as  a  lawful  wife  and  given  this 
title,  and  not  as  a  concubine,  though  of  this  the  Witten- 
bergers  were  not  aware. 

Further,  the  theological  grounds  for  the  Wittenberg 
"  advice  "  must  not  be  lost  sight  of  in  considering  the 
question  of  the  obligation  of  silence  or  secrecy.  The  theo 
logians  based  their  decision  on  a  doctrine  which  they  had 
already  openly  proclaimed.  Nor  did  Luther  ever  withdraw 
from  the  standpoint  that  polygamy  was  lawful ;  he  even 
proclaimed  it  during  the  height  of  the  controversy  raised 
by  the  Hessian  bigamy,  though  he  was  careful  to  restrict  it 
to  very  rare  and  exceptional  cases  and  to  make  its  use 
dependent  on  the  consent  of  the  authorities.  Thus  the 
grounds  for  the  step  he  had  taken  in  Philip's  favour  were 
universally  and  publicly  known  just  as  much  as  his  other 
theological  doctrines.  If,  however,  his  teaching  on  this 
matter  was  true,  then,  strictly  speaking,  people  had  as  much 
right  to  it  as  to  every  other  piece  of  truth ;  in  fact,  it  was  the 
more  urgent  that  this  Evangelical  discovery  should  not 
be  put  under  a  bushel,  seeing  that  it  would  have  been  a 
veritable  godsend  to  many  who  groaned  in  the  bonds  of 
matrimony.  Hence  everything,  both  on  Philip's  side  and 
on  that  of  the  theologians,  pointed  to  publicity.  But 
may,  perhaps,  the  Wittenberg  "  advice "  have  been 
esteemed  a  sort  of  "counsel  given  in  Confession,"  and  did 
its  contents  accordingly  fall  under  the  "  secret  of  Con 
fession  "  ? 

The  word  "  Confession,"  in  its  sacramental  meaning,  was 
never  used  in  connection  with  the  affair  dealt  with  at 
Wittenberg,  either  in  Philip's  instructions  to  Bucer  or  in  the 
theologians'  memorandum,  nor  does  it  occur  in  any  of  the 
few  documents  relating  to  the  bigamy  until  about  six 
months  later.  "  Confession  "  is  first  alleged  in  the  letter 
of  excuse  given  below  which  Luther  addressed  to  the 
Elector  of  Saxony.  It  is  true  that  the  expression  "  in  the 
way  of  Confession  "  occurs  once  in  the  memorandum,  but 
there  it  is  used  in  an  entirely  different  sense  and  in  no  way 
stamps  the  business  as  a  matter  of  Confession.  There  it  is 
stated  (above,  p.  21),  that  those  who  were  to  be  apprised 
of  the  bigamy  were  to  learn  it  "in  the  way  of  Confession." 


Here  the  word  Confession  is  employed  by  metonymy  and 
merely  emphasises  the  need  of  discretion.  Here  there  was 
naturally  no  idea  of  the  sacramental  seal,  or  of  the  making  of 
a  real  Confession.  In  the  Middle  Ages  the  term  Confession 
was  not  seldom  used  to  denote  the  imparting  of  an  ordinary 
confidential  secret,  just  as  the  word  to  confess  originally 
meant  to  admit,  to  acknowledge,  or  to  communicate  some 
thing  secret.  This,  however,  was  not  the  meaning  attached 
to  it  by  those  who  sought  to  shelter  themselves  behind  the 
term  in  the  controversies  which  ensued  after  the  bigamy 
had  become  generally  known.  To  vindicate  the  keeping 
secret  of  his  so-called  "  advice  in  Confession,"  Luther  falls 
back  upon  his  Catholic  recollections  of  the  entire  secrecy 
required  of  the  Confessor,  in  other  words,  on  the  sacra 
mental  "  seal." 

Undoubtedly  the  Seal  of  Confession  is  inexorable  ;  ac 
cording  to  the  Catholic  view  it  possesses  a  sacramental 
sanction  and  surrounds,  like  a  protecting  rampart,  the 
sanctuary  of  the  Sacrament  of  Penance,  which  otherwise 
would  be  shunned  by  all.  But  this  absolute  and  sacramental 
obligation  of  silence  attends  only  the  administration  of  the 
Sacrament  of  Penance. 

The  idea  that  Luther  and  his  comrades  when  signing  the 
"  advice "  were  dispensing  the  Sacrament  of  Penance 
cannot  but  raise  a  smile.  In  connection  with  this  matter 
non-Catholic  theologians  and  historians  would  never  have 
spoken  as  they  have  done  of  Luther  as  a  Confessor,  had 
they  been  better  acquainted  with  the  usages  of  the  older 
Church.  In  the  case  of  such  writers  all  that  is  known  of  the 
system  of  Confession  is  often  a  few  distorted  quotations  from 
casuists.  Even  under  its  altered  form,  as  then  in  use  among 
the  Protestants,  Confession  could  only  mean  an  admission 
of  one's  sins,  made  to  obtain  absolution.  In  Lutheranism, 
confession,  so  far  as  it  was  retained  at  all,  meant  the  awaken 
ing  and  animating  of  faith  by  means  of  some  sort  of  self- 
accusation  completed  by  the  assurance  given  by  the  preacher 
of  the  Divine  promise  and  forgiveness,  a  process  which  bears 
no  analogy  to  the  "  testimony  "  given  by  the  theologians 
to  Philip  of  Hesse.  In  the  Catholic  Church,  moreover,  in 
whose  practice  Luther  seems  anxious  to  take  refuge,  Con 
fession  involves  an  accusation  of  all  grievous  sins,  contrition, 
a  firm  resolve  to  amend,  satisfaction  and  absolution.  What 

IV.— D 


was  there  of  all  this  in  the  Landgrave's  so-called  Con 
fession  ?x  Where  was  the  authority  to  absolve,  even  had 
this  been  what  the  Landgrave  sought  ?  How  then  could 
there  come  into  play  the  Seal  of  Confession,  i.e.  any  sacra 
mental  obligation  apart  from  the  purely  natural  obligation 
of  keeping  silence  concerning  a  communication  made  in 
confidence  ?  Again,  Confession,  even  according  to  Lutheran 
ideas,  is  not  made  at  a  distance,  or  to  several  persons 
simultaneously,  or  with  the  object  of  securing  a  signed 

Apart  from  all  this  one  may  even  question  whether  the 
Landgrave's  disclosures  were  really  honestly  meant.  Not 
everyone  would  have  taken  them  from  the  outset  as  in 
tended  seriously,  or  have  regarded  them  as  above  suspicion. 
Melanchthon,  for  instance,  soon  began  to  have  doubts.  (See 
below.)  The  readiness,  nay,  eagerness,  shown  by  Philip 
later  to  repeat  his  Confession  to  others,  to  reinforce  it  by 
even  more  appalling  admissions  of  wickedness,  and  to  give 
it  the  fullest  publicity,  is  really  not  favourable  to  the  "  Con 
fession  "  idea  ;  on  the  contrary,  it  reminds  us  of  the  morbid 
pleasure  which  persons  habituated  to  vice  and  who  have 
lost  all  respect  whether  for  themselves  or  for  the  virtue  of 
others,  take  in  speaking  openly  of  their  moral  lapses. 
The  most  important  point  to  bear  in  mind  is,  however,  the 
fact,  that  with  Philip  of  Hesse  it  was  a  question  of  a  marriage 
which  he  intended  should  be  kept  secret  only  for  a  time, 
and  further  that  the  Wittenbergers  were  aware  of  Philip's 
readiness  to  lay  his  case  before  the  Emperor,  nay,  even  the 
Pope  should  necessity  arise.2  Owing  to  this  they  could  not 
be  blind  to  the  possibility  of  the  marriage,  and,  incidentally, 
of  the  Landgrave's  admission  of  moral  necessity,  and  further 
of  their  own  "  advice "  being  all  disclosed.  Thus  the 
"  Seal  of  Confession "  was  threatened  from  the  very 
first.  Philip  himself  never  recognised  a  binding  obliga 
tion  of  secrecy  on  the  part  of  the  Wittenbergers  ;  on  the 
contrary,  his  invitation  to  them  was  :  Speak  out  freely, 
now  that  the  step  has  been  taken  with  your  sanction  ! 
What  was  Luther's  answer  ?  He  appealed  to  the  Secret 
of  the  Confessional  and  refused  to  defend  the  act  before 

1  Cp.  N.  Paulus,  "  Das  Beichtgeheimnis  und  die  Doppelehe  Philipps 
usw.,"  "  Hist.-pol.  Bl.,"  135,  1905,  p.  317  ff. 

2  Cp.  Rockwell,  loc.  cit.,  pp.  154,  156. 


the  world  and  the  Empire,  but  merely  "  before  God  "  ;  all 
he  was  willing  to  do  was  to  vindicate  it  "  before  God,  by 
examples  such  as  that  of  Abraham,  etc.,  and  to  conceal  it  as 
much  as  possible."  And  yet,  to  forestall  what  will  be 
related  below,  full  publicity  would  surely  have  been  the 
best  thing  for  himself,  as  then  the  world  would  at  least  have 
learnt  that  he  was  not  desirous  of  introducing  polygamy 
generally,  and  that  the  whole  business  had  only  been  made 
common  property  through  Philip's  disregard  of  the  recom 
mendation  of  secrecy.  Instead  of  this,  however,  he  pre 
ferred  to  profess  his  readiness  (it  was  probably  no  more 
than  a  threat)  to  admit  publicly  that  he  had  been  in  the 
wrong  all  along  and  had  acted  foolishly  ;  here  again,  had 
he  been  true  to  his  word,  the  "  Secret  of  the  Confessional  " 
would  assuredly  have  fared  badly. 

Even  in  his  letter  of  excuse  to  the  Elector  Johann 
Frederick  concerning  his  sanction  of  the  bigamy,  Luther 
explained  so  much  of  the  incident,  that  the  "  Seal  of  Con 
fession  "  was  practically  violated  ;  quite  unmindful  of  the 
inviolability  of  the  Seal  he  here  declared,  that  he  wrould 
have  preferred  to  say  nothing  of  the  "  counsel  given  in 
Confession  had  not  necessity"  forced  him  to  do  so.  But 
what  kind  of  Seal  of  Confession  wras  this,  we  may  ask,  which 
could  thus  be  set  aside  in  case  of  necessity  ? 

Melanchthon  acted  differently.  He,  without  any  neces 
sity,  at  once  recounted  everything  that  had  happened  to  a 
friend  in  a  letter  eloquent  with  grief.  He,  the  author  of 
the  "  Counsel  of  Confession,"  felt  under  no  obligation  to 
regard  the  Seal.  He  considers  himself  liberated,  by  Philip's 
behaviour,  from  the  obligation  even  of  confidential  secrecy.1 
Bucer  expressed  himself  on  Aug.  8,  1540,  in  a  similar 
fashion  concerning  the  counsel  given  to  the  Landgrave 
"  in  Confession  "  :  Luther  wrould  certainly  publish  and 
defend  it,  should  the  "  marriage  have  to  be  admitted  " 
through  no  fault  of  the  Landgrave's.2  No  one,  in  fact, 
displayed  the  slightest  scruple  regarding  the  secrecy  of  the 
Confession — except  Luther  and  those  who  re-echo  his 

1  Yet  in  a  later  missive  to  Philip  of  Hesse  (Sep.  17,  1540)  he  too 
speaks  of  the  "  counsel  given  in  Confession  in  case  of  necessity."    Here, 
however,  he  bases  his  injunction  of  silence  on  other  considerations. 

2  "  Philipps  Brief wechsel,"  1,  p.  208. 


According  to  the  above  we  are  justified  in  saying  that  the 
term  "  Counsel  given  in  Confession  "  is  in  no  wise  de 
scriptive  of  the  Wittenberg  document.  The  word  "  testi 
mony,"  or  "  certificate,"  used  both  in  Philip's  instructions 
and  in  an  important  passage  of  the  document  signed  by 
Luther,  Mclanchthon  and  Buccr,  is  historically  more  correct ; 
the  terms  "  opinion "  or  "  memorandum "  are  equally 

The  Wittenbergers  gave  their  testimony  or  opinion — such 
is  the  upshot  of  the  matter— but  no  Dispensation  or  Counsel 
in  Confession  in  the  sense  just  determined.  They  gave  a 
testimony,  which  was  asked  for  that  it  might  be  made 
public,  but  which  was  given  in  confidence,  which  was  more 
over  based  on  their  openly  expressed  teaching,  though  it 
actually  dealt  only  with  Philip's  own  case,  a  testimony 
which  no  longer  involved  them  in  any  obligation  of  secrecy 
once  the  marriage  had  been  made  public  by  Philip,  and  once 
the  latter  had  declared  his  intention  of  making  the  testi 
mony  public  should  circumstances  demand  it. 

Luther's  Embarrassment  on  the  Bigamy  becoming  Public. 

At  the  commencement  of  June,  1540,  Luther  was  in  great 
distress  on  account  of  the  Hessian  bigamy.  His  embarrass 
ment  and  excitement  increased  as  the  tidings  flew  far  and 
wide,  particularly  when  the  Court  of  Dresden  and  his  own 
Elector  began  to  take  fright  at  the  scandal,  and  the  danger 
of  complications  arising  with  the  Emperor.  On  the  other 
hand,  Luther  was  not  unaware  of  the  Landgrave's  doubts  as 
to  whether  he  would  stand  by  his  written  declaration.  Jonas 
wrote  from  Wittenberg  on  June  10  to  George  of  Anhalt  : 
"  Philip  is  much  upset  and  Dr.  Martin  full  of  thought."1 

On  that  very  day  Bruck,  the  Electoral  Chancellor,  dis 
cussed  the  matter  with  both  of  them  at  Wittenberg.  He 
acquainted  them  with  his  sovereign's  fears.  They  had  gone 
too  far,  and  the  publication  of  the  affair  had  had  the  most 
disastrous  results  ;  a  young  Princess  and  Landgravine  had 
appeared  on  the  scene,  which  was  not  at  all  what  the  Elector 
had  expected  ;  the  Court  of  Dresden  was  loud  in  its  com 
plaints  and  spared  not  even  the  Elector  ;  the  Dresden 

1  "  Briefwechsel  des  Jonas,"  1,  p.  394. 


people  were  bringing  forward  against  Luther  what  he  had 
taught  in  favour  of  polygamy  thirteen  years  before  ;  the 
door  had  now  been  opened  wide  to  polygamists. 

Not  long  after  Luther  wrote,  that,  were  it  necessary,  he 
would  know  how  to  "  extricate  himself."1  Even  before 
dropping  this  curious  remark  he  had  shown  himself  very 
anxious  to  make  his  position  secure.  It  was  wTith  this  object 
in  view,  that,  after  his  interview  with  Briick,  probably  on 
the  same  day,  he  proceeded  to  explain  the  case  to  his 
sovereign  in  the  lengthy  letter2  in  which  he  appeals  to 
Confession  and  its  secrecy. 

"  Before  the  world  and  against  the  laws  of  the  Empire 
it  cannot  be  defended,"  but  "  we  were  desirous  of  glossing 
it  over  before  God  as  much  as  possible  with  examples,  such 
as  that  of  Abraham,  etc.  All  this  was  done  and  treated  of 
as  in  Confession,  so  that  we  cannot  be  charged  as  though 
we  had  done  it  willingly  and  gladly,  or  with  joy  and  pleasure. 
...  I  took  into  consideration  the  unavoidable  necessity 
and  weakness,  and  the  danger  to  his  conscience  which 
Master  Bucer  had  set  forth." 

Luther  goes  on  to  complain,  that  the  Landgrave,  by  allowing 
this  "  matter  of  Confession  "  and  "  advice  given  in  Confession  " 
to  become  to  a  certain  extent  public,  had  caused  all  this  "  annoy 
ance  and  contumely."  He  relates  in  detail  what  Bucer,  when 
seeking  to  obtain  the  Wittenberg  sanction,  had  recounted  con 
cerning  his  master's  immorality,  so  contrary  to  the  Evangel, 
"  though  he  should  be  one  of  the  mainstays  of  the  party."  They 
had  at  first  looked  askance  at  the  idea,  but,  on  being  told  that 
"  he  was  unable  to  relinquish  it,  and,  should  we  not  permit  it, 
would  do  it  in  spite  of  us,  and  obtain  permission  from  the 
Emperor  or  the  Pope  unless  we  were  beforehand,  we  humbly 
begged  His  Serene  Highness,  if  he  was  really  set  on  it,  and,  as  he 
declared,  could  not  in  conscience  and  before  God  do  otherwise, 
that  he  would  at  least  keep  it  secret."  This  had  been  promised 
them  [by  Bucer]  ;  their  intention  had  been  to  "  save  his  con 
science  as  best  we  might." 

Luther,  far  from  showing  himself  remorseful  for  his  indulgence, 
endeavoars  in  his  usual  way  to  suppress  any  scruples  of  con 
science  :  "  Even  to-day,  were  such  a  case  to  come  before  me 
again,  I  should  not  know  how  to  give  any  other  advice  than 
what  I  then  gave,  nor  would  it  trouble  me  should  it  afterwards 
become  known."  "  I  am  not  ashamed  of  the  testimony  even 

1  "  Briefwechsel,"  13,  p.  79. 

2  Ed.  by  Seidemann,  "  Lauterbachs  Tagebuch,"  p.  196  ff.,  with  the 
notice,  "  Written  in  April  or  June,   1540."      Rockwell  gives  the  date 
more  correctly,  as,  probably,  June  10  (pp.  138,  364). 


should  it  come  before  the  world,  though,  to  be  spared  trouble,  I 
should  prefer  it  to  be  kept  secret  so  long  as  possible."  Still,  no 
angel  would  have  induced  him  to  give  such  advice  "  had  he 
known  that  the  Landgrave  had  long  satisfied  and  could  still 
satisfy  his  cravings  on  others,  for  instance,  as  I  now  learn,  on 
lady  von  Essweg."  This  lady  was  perhaps  a  relative  of  Rudolf 
Schenk,  Landvogt  of  Eschwege  on  the  Werra.1  We  may  recall, 
that  the  proposal  of  taking  a  "  concubine  "  in  place  of  the  too 
numerous  "  light  women  "  had  been  made  to  Philip  by  his 
sister. 2 

Luther  goes  on  to  excuse  his  conduct  still  further  to  the 
Elector  :  "  Still  less  would  I  have  advised  a  public  marriage  "  ; 
that  the  second  wife  was  to  become  a  Princess  or  Landgravine — 
a  plan  at  which  the  whole  Empire  would  take  offence — had  been 
kept  from  him  altogether  ;  "  what  I  expected  was,  that,  since 
he  was  obliged  owing  to  the  weakness  of  the  flesh  to  follow  the 
ordinary  course  of  sin  and  shame,  he  would  perhaps  keep  an 
honest  girl  in  some  house,  and  wed  her  secretly — though  even 
this  would  look  ill  in  the  sight  of  the  world — and  thus  overcome 
his  great  trouble  of  conscience  ;  he  could  then  ride  backwards 
and  forwards,  as  the  great  lords  do  frequently  enough  ;  similar 
advice  I  gave  also  to  certain  parish  priests  under  Duke  George 
and  the  bishops,  viz.  that  they  should  marry  their  cook  secretly." 

Though  what  he  here  says  may  be  worthy  of  credence,  yet  to 
apply  the  term  Confession  to  what  passed  between  Philip  and 
Wittenberg  is  surely  to  introduce  an  alien  element  into  the 
affair.  Yet  he  does  use  the  word  three  times  in  the  course  of  the 
letter  and  seemingly  lays  great  stress  on  it.  The  Confession,  he 
says,  covered  all  that  had  passed,  and,  because  it  "  was  seemly  " 
to  "  keep  matters  treated  of  in  Confession  private  "  he  and 
Melanchthon  "  preferred  not  to  relate  the  matter  and  the  counsel 

1  Cp.  "  Brief wechsel,"  13,  p.  82,  n.  4,  the  remark  of    G.  Kawerau. 
"  The  regret  felt  by  Luther  was  caused  by  the  knowledge  that  the 
Landgrave  had  already  a  '  concubine  of  his  own  '    and  had  not  been 
satisfying  his  lusts  merely  on  '  common  prostitutes  '  ;     had  he  known 
this  at  the  time  he  gave  his  advice  he  would  certainly  have  counselled 
the  Landgrave  to  contract  a  sort  of  spiritual  marriage  with  this  concu 
bine."      Kostlin  had  seen  a  difficulty  in  Luther's  later  statement,  that 
he  would  not    have  given  his  counsel  (the  advice  tendered  did  not 
specify  the  lady)  had  he  known  that  the  Landgrave  had  "  long  satisfied, 
and  could  still  satisfy,  his  craving  on  others,"  etc.     That  there  is  really 
a  difficulty  involved,  at  least  in  Luther's  use  of   the  plural  "  others," 
seems  clear  unless,  indeed,  Kawerau  would  make  Luther  counsel   the 
Landgrave  to  contract   "  spiritual  marriage  "  with  all  these    several 
ladies.    ;  Elsewhere  Luther  describes  as  a  "  harlot  "  a  certain  Catharine 
whom  Kawerau  (ibid.)  surmises  to  have  been  this  same  Essweg.      By 
her  Philip  had  a  daughter  named  Ursula  whom,  in    1556,  he  gave  in 
marriage  to  Glaus  Ferber. 

2  "  Philipps  Brief  wechsel,"  1,  p.   160.      The  Landgrave  to  Bucer. 
He  was  to  tell  his  sister  "  that  she  must  surely  recollect   having  told 
him  that  he  should  keep  a  concubine  instead  of   having  recourse  to 
numerous  prostitutes  ;    if  she  was  willing  to  allow  what  was  contrary 
to  God's  law,  why  not  allow  this,  which  is  a  dispensation  of  God  ?  " 


given  in  Confession  "  to  the  Elector  ;  but,  since  the  Landgrave 
"  had  revealed  the  substance  of  the  Confession  and  the  advice," 
it  was  easier  for  him  to  speak.  Hence  he  would  now  reveal  the 
"  advice  given  in  Confession  ;  though  I  should  much  have  pre 
ferred  to  keep  it  secret,  unless -necessity  had  forced  it  from  me, 
now  I  am  unable  to  do  so."  The  fact  is,  however,  that  the  real 
Seal  of  Confession  (and  of  this  Luther  was  quite  aware)  does  not 
allow  the  confessor  who  has  received  the  Confession  to  make  any 
communication  or  disclosure  concerning  it  ;  even  should  the 
penitent  make  statements  concerning  other  matters  which 
occurred  in  the  Confession,  under  no  circumstances  whatsoever, 
however  serious  these  may  be,  not  even  in  the  case  of  danger  to 
life  and  limb,  may  "  necessity  "  "  force  out  "  anything.  Although 
in  this  case  Luther  had  not  heard  a  Confession  at  all,  yet  he 
refers  to  the  Secret  of  the  Confessional  with  which  he  was  ac 
quainted  from  his  Catholic  days,  and  his  own  former  exercise  of 
it  :  "I  have  received  in  Confession  many  confidences,  both  in 
Popery  and  since,  and  given  advice,  but  were  there  any  question 
of  making  them  public  I  should  be  obliged  to  say  no.  .  .  .  Such 
matters  are  no  business  of  the  secular  courts  nor  ought  they  to  be 
made  public." 

This  uncalled-for  introduction  of  Confession  was  intended 
to  save  him  from  being  obliged  to  admit  his  consent 
publicly  ;  it  was  meant  to  reassure  so  weak  a  theologian  as 
the  Elector,  who  dreaded  the  scandal  arising  from  Luther's 
advice  to  commit  bigamy,  and  the  discussion  of  the  case 
before  the  Imperial  Court  of  Justice  ;  possibly  he  also 
hoped  it  would  serve  against  that  other  princely  theologian, 
viz.  the  Landgrave,  and  cause  him  to  withdraw  his  demand 
for  a  public  acknowledgment  of  the  sanction  given.  His 
tactics  here  remind  us  of  Luther's  later  denial,  when  he 
professed  himself  ready  simply  to  deny  the  bigamy  and 
his  share  in  it — because  everything  had  been  merely  a 
matter  of  Confession. 

Even  in  this  first  letter  dealing  with  the  question,  he  is 
clearly  on  the  look-out  for  a  loophole  by  which  he  may 
escape  from  the  calamitous  business. 

The  publication  of  the  "  testimony  "  was  to  be  prevented 
at  all  costs.  But,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  not  only  did  the 
"  Seal  of  Confession  "  present  no  obstacle,  but  even  the 
common  secrecy  referred  to  above  (p.  31)  wras  no  longer 
binding.  This  had  been  cancelled  by  the  indiscretion  of  the 
Landgrave.  Moreover,  apart  from  this,  the  natural  obliga 
tion  of  secrecy  did  not  extend  to  certain  extreme  cases 
which  might  have  been  foreseen  by  both  parties  and  in  the 


event  of  which  both  would  recover  their  freedom.  It  should 
be  noted,  that  Luther  hardly  made  any  appeal  to  this 
natural  obligation  of  secrecy,  probably  because  it  could  not 
be  turned  to  account  so  easily.  The  Seal  of  Confession 
promised  to  serve  him  better  in  circles  so  little  acquainted 
with  theology. 

In  the  second  letter  dealing  with  the  bigamy,  dated 
June  27,  1540,  and  addressed  to  Philip's  intimate,  Ebcrhard 
von  der  Thann,  Luther  speaks  with  an  eye  on  Hesse.1 
Thann,  through  Chancellor  Briick,  had  informed  him  of 
what  wTas  being  said  of  him  there,  and  had  asked  what 
Luther  would  advise  the  Hessian  Prince,  and  whether,  in 
order  to  obviate  other  cases  of  polygamy  in  Hesse,  it  would 
be  advisable  for  the  authorities  to  issue  an  edict  against  the 
universal  lawfulness  of  having  several  wives.  Luther 
replied,  that  he  agreed  with  the  Landgrave's  intention  as 
announced  by  Thann  concerning  his  second  marriage,  viz. 
to  wait  until  the  Emperor  "  should  approach  His  Serene 
Highness  on  the  subject "  ;  and  then  to  write  to  the 
Emperor  :  "  That  he  had  taken  a  concubine  but  that  he 
would  be  perfectly  ready  to  put  her  away  again  if  other 
Princes  and  Lords  would  set  a  good  example."  If  the 
Emperor  were  compelled  "  to  regard  the  '  lady '  as  a 
concubine,"  "  no  one  else  would  dare  to  speak  or  think 
differently  "  ;  in  this  wise  the  real  state  of  things  would  be 
"  covered  over  and  kept  secret."  On  the  other  hand,  it 
would  not  be  at  all  advisable  to  issue  any  edict,  or  to  speak 
of  the  matter,"  for  then  "  there  would  be  no  end  or  limit  to 
gossip  and  suspicions." 

"  And  I  for  my  part  am  determined  [here  he  comes  to  his 
'  testimony  '  and  the  meaning  he  now  put  on  it]  to  keep  silence 
concerning  my  part  of  the  confession  which  I  heard  from  His 
Serene  Highness  through  Bucer,  even  should  I  suffer  for  it,  for  it 
is  better  that  people  should  say  that  Dr.  Martin  acted  foolishly 
in  his  concession  to  the  Landgrave — for  even  great  men  have 
acted  foolishly  and  do  so,  even  now,  as  the  saying  goes  :  A  wise 
man  makes  no  small  mistakes — rather  than  reveal  the  reasons 
why  we  secretly  consented  ;  for  that  would  greatly  disgrace  and 
damage  the  reputation  of  the  Landgrave,  and  would  also  make 
matters  worse."  To  the  Elector  his  sovereign  Luther  had  said 
that,  even  to-day,  he  "  would  not  be  able  to  give  any  different 

1  "  Luthers  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wettc,  6,  p.  267  f.,  and,  better,  in 
Rockwell,  p.  165,  after  the  original. 


advice  "  and  that  he  saw  no  reason  to  blush  for  it.  Hence  it  is 
hard  to  believe  that  he  seriously  contemplated  admitting  that  he 
had  been  guilty  of  an  act  of  "  folly  "  and  had  "  acted  foolishly." 
It  will  be  shown  more  clearly  below  what  his  object  was  in 
threatening  such  a  repudiation  of  his  advice  to  the  Landgrave. 

In  his  letter  to  Thann,  Luther  decides  in  favour  of  the  ex 
pedient  suggested  by  the  Hessian  theologians,  viz.  of  the  amphi 
bological  use  of  the  word  concubine  ;  here  it  should,  however,  be 
noted,  that  this  term,  if  used  officially  to  counteract  the  common 
report  concerning  the  new  marriage,  plainly  implied  a  denial  of  the 
reality  of  the  bigamy. 

But  how  if  the  Landgrave  were  directly  confronted  in  a  Court 
of  Justice  with  the  question  :  Have  you,  or  have  you  not, 
married  two  wives  ? 

Here  belongs  the  third  letter  of  Luther's  which  we  have 
on  the  subject  and  which  was  despatched  to  Hesse  before 
the  middle  of  July.  It  is  addressed  to  "  a  Hessian 
Councillor  "  who  has  been  identified,  with  some  probability, 
as  the  Hessian  Chancellor  Johann  Feige.1 

To  the  addressee,  who  was  acquainted  with  the  whole 
matter  and  had  applied  to  Luther  for  his  opinion  on  behalf 
of  the  Landgrave,  the  writer  defines  his  own  position  still 
more  clearly  ;  if  people  say  openly  that  the  Landgrave  has 
contracted  a  second  marriage,  all  one  need  answer  is,  that 
this  is  not  true,  although  it  is  true  that  he  has  contracted  a 
secret  union  ;  hence  he  himself  was  wont  to  say,  "  the 
Landgrave's  other  marriage  is  all  nonsense." 

The  justification  of  this  he  finds  in  the  theory  of  the  secrecy  of 
confession  upon  which  he  insists  strongly  in  this  letter.  Not 
only  is  his  own  share  in  the  matter  nil  because  ostensibly  done 
in  confession,  but  the  marriage  itself  is  merely  a  sort  of  "  con 
fession  marriage,"  a  thing  concealed  and  therefore  non-existent 
so  far  as  the  world  is  concerned.  "  A  secret  affirmative  cannot 
become  a  public  affirmative  ...  a  secret  '  yes  '  remains  a 
public  '  no  '  and  vice  versa.  .  .  .  On  this  I  take  my  stand  ; 
I  say  that  the  Landgrave's  second  marriage  is  nil  and  cannot  be 
convincing  to  anyone.  For,  as  they  say,  '  palam,'  it  is  not  true, 
and  although  it  may  be  true  '  clam,'  yet  that  they  may  not  tell." 

He  is  very  bitter  about  the  Landgrave's  purpose  of  making  the 
marriage  and  the  Wittenberg  "  advice "  public,  should  need 
arise.  The  fate  of  the  latter  was,  in  fact,  his  chief  anxiety.  "  In 
this  the  Landgrave  touches  us  too  nearly,  but  himself  even  more, 
that  he  is  determined  to  do  '  palam  '  what  we  arranged  with  him 
'  clam,'  and  to  make  of  a  '  nullum  '  an  '  omne '  ;  this  we  are 

1  "  Briefe,"  6,  p.  263  scq.  For  the  address  see  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  166, 
where  the  date  is  fixed  between  July  7  and  15,  1540. 


unable  either  to  defend  or  to  answer  for,  and  we  should  certainly 
come  to  high  words."  The  last  sentence  was,  however,  felt  by 
Luther  to  be  too  strong  and  he  accordingly  struck  it  out  of  the 

He  also  says  that  the  Landgrave's  appeal  to  his  sermon  on 
Genesis  would  be  of  no  avail,  because  he  (Luther)  had  taught, 
both  previous  to  and  after  it,  that  the  law  of  Moses  was  not  to 
be  introduced,  though  some  of  it  "  might  be  used  secretly  in 
cases  of  necessity,  or  even  publicly  by  order  of  the  authorities." 
But  advice  extorted  from  him  in  Confession  by  the  distress  of  a 
suffering  conscience  could  "  not  be  held  to  constitute  a  true 
precedent  in  law."  He  here  touches  upon  a  thought  to  which  he 
was  to  return  in  entirely  different  circumstances  :  Neither  the 
preachers,  nor  the  Gospel,  lay  down  outward  laws,  not  even 
concerning  religion  ;  the  secular  authorities  are  the  only  legis 
lators  ;  ecclesiastical  guidance  comprises  only  advice,  direction  and 
the  expounding  of  Scripture,  and  has  to  do  only  with  the  interior 
life,  being  without  any  jurisdiction,  even  spiritual  ;  as  public 
men,  the  pastors  were  appointed  to  preach,  pray  and  give  advice  ; 
to  the  individual  they  rendered  service  amidst  the  "  secret  needs 
of  conscience."1 

He  thereby  absolves  himself  from  the  consequence  apparently 
involved  in  the  step  he  had  taken,  viz.  the  introduction  of 
polygamy  as  a  "  general  right  "  ;  it  does  not  follow  that  : 
"  What  you  do  from  necessity,  I  have  a  right  to  do  "  ;  "  neces 
sity  knows  no  law  or  precedent,"  hence  a  man  who  is  driven  by 
hunger  to  steal  bread,  or  who  kills  in  self-defence  is  not  punished, 
yet  wrhat  thus  holds  in  cases  of  necessity  cannot  be  taken  as  a 
law  or  rule.  On  the  other  hand,  Luther  will  not  listen  to  the 
proposal  then  being  made  in  Hesse,  viz.  that,  in  order  to  counter 
act  the  bad  example,  a  special  edict  should  be  issued  declaring 
polygamy  unlawful  as  a  general  rule,  but  allowable  in  an  ex 
ceptional  case,  on  the  strength  "  of  secret  advice  given  in  Con 
fession  "  ;  on  the  contrary,  it  would  be  far  better  simply  to 
denounce  polygamy  as  unlawful. 

Hence  if  the  Landgrave,  so  Luther  concludes,  "  will  not 
forsake  the  sweetheart  "  on  whom  "  he  has  so  set  his  heart 
that  she  has  become  a  need  to  him,"  and  if,  moreover,  he 
will  "  keep  her  out  of  the  way,"  then  "  we  theologians  and 
confessors  shall  vindicate  it  before  God,  as  a  case  of  neces 
sity  to  be  excused  by  the  examples  of  Genesis.  But  defend 
it  before  the  world  and  '  hire  nunc  regente?  that  we  cannot 
and  shall  not  do.  Short  of  this  the  Landgrave  may  count 
upon  our  best  service." 

The  Landgrave  was,  however,  not  satisfied  with  either 
of  these  letters,  both  of  which  came  into  his  hands.  He 

1  Cp.  vol.  iii.,  p.  30  ff. 


wanted  from  Luther  a  clear  and  public  admission  of  his 
share  in  the  business,  which,  to  the  Prince's  peril,  had  now 
become  as  good  as  public,  and  threatened  to  constitute  a 
precedent.  By  this  invitation  the  Prince  naturally  released 
Luther  from  all  obligation  of  secrecy.  Even  the  making 
public  of  the  immorality,  which  had  served  as  a  pretext  for 
the  new  marriage,  he  did  not  mind  in  the  least,  for  his  laxity 
in  morals  was  already  a  matter  of  common  knowledge  ;  he 
discussed  his  lapses  with  the  theologians  as  openly  as 
though  all  of  them  had  been  his  confessors  and  spiritual 
directors  ;  he  \vas  also  quite  ready  to  repeat  his  admissions, 
"  as  in  Confession,"  before  secular  witnesses.  Such  was  the 
depth  of  depravity  into  which  his  passions  had  brought  him. 

Yielding  to  pressure  brought  to  bear  on  him  by  Saxony, 
Luther  had  meanwhile  conceived  the  idea  of  publishing  a 
work  against  polygamy.  The  new  expedient  had  indeed 
been  foreshadowed  in  his  last  letter.  On  June  17, 1540,  Jonas 
wrote  to  George  of  Anhalt  that  Luther  might  be  expected 
to  write  a  work  "  Contra  polygamiam."1  Martin  Beyer  of 
Schaffhausen,  on  his  return  from  Wittenberg,  also  brought 
the  news,  so  Bullinger  was  informed,  that  "  Luther  was 
being  compelled  by  the  Hessian  business  to  write  a  work 
against  the  plurality  of  wives."2 

The  project  was,  however,  never  realised,  probably  on 
account  of  the  insuperable  difficulties  it  involved. 

But  though  this  work  never  saw  the  light,  history  has 
preserved  for  us  a  number  of  Luther's  familiar  conversations, 
dating  from  this  period  and  taken  down  directly  from  his 
lips,  utterances  which  have  every  claim  to  consideration 
and  faithfully  mirror  his  thoughts. 

Luther's  Private  Utterances  Regarding  the  Bigamy. 

The  Table-Talk,  dating  from  the  height  of  the  hubbub 
caused  by  the  bigamy,  affords  us  a  vivid  psychological 
picture  of  Luther. 

Of  this  Table-Talk  we  have  the  detailed  and  authentic 
notes  from  the  pen  of  Johann  Mathesius,  who  was  present. 
These  notes,  in  their  best  form,  became  known  only  in  1903, 

1  "  Briefwechsel  des  Jonas,"  1,  p.  397  f. 

2  Thus    Gualther  from  Frankfort>   Sep.    15,    1540,   to  Bullinger,  in 
Fueslin,  "  Epistolce,"  p.  205.     Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  176. 


thanks  to  Krokcr's  edition,  but,  for  the  better  understand 
ing  of  Luther's  personality,  his  intimate  descriptions  of 
what  was  passing  in  his  mind  are  of  inestimable  value. 
Conjointly  with  the  principal  passage,  which  probably 
dates  from  June  18,  1540,  other  sayings  dropped  regarding 
the  same  matter  may  be  considered.1 

The  scene  in  the  main  was  as  follows  :  The  usual  guests, 
among  them  the  disciples  with  their  note-books,  were  assembled 
after  the  evening  meal  in  Luther's  house,  grouped  around  the 
master,  who  seemed  sunk  in  thought ;  Melanchthon,  however, 
was  missing,  for  he  lay  seriously  ill  at  Weimar,  overwhelmed  by 
anxiety  now  that  his  consent  to  the  bigamy  was  leaking  out. 
Whilst  yet  at  table  two  letters  were  handed  to  Luther,  the  first 
from  Briick,  the  Electoral  Chancellor,  the  second  from  the 
Elector  himself.  Both  referred  to  Melanchthon.  The  Elector 
requested  Luther  to  betake  himself  as  soon  as  possible  to  Weimar 
to  his  friend,  who  seemed  in  danger  of  death,  and  informed  him 
at  the  same  time  of  the  measures  threatened  by  the  Landgrave 
in  the  matter  of  the  second  marriage. 

Luther,  after  glancing  at  Briick's  missive  concerning  Melanch 
thon,  said  to  the  guests  :  "  Philip  is  pining  away  for  vexation, 
and  has  fallen  into  a  fever  ('  tertiana  ').  But  why  does  the  good 
fellow  crucify  himself  so  about  this  business  ?  All  his  anxiety 
will  do  no  good.  I  do  wish  I  were  with  him  !  I  know  how 
sensitive  he  is.  The  scandal  pains  him  beyond  measure.  I,  on 
the  other  hand,  have  a  thick  skin,  I  am  a  peasant,  a  hard  Saxon 
when  such  x  are  concerned.2  I  expect  I  shall  be  summoned  to 

Someone  thereupon  interjected  the  remark  :  "  Doctor,  perhaps 
the  Colloquium  [which  was  to  be  held  at  Hagenau]  will  not  now 
take  place  "  ;  Luther  replied  :  "  They  will  certainly  have  to 
wait  for  us.  .  .  ." 

A  second  messenger  now  came  in  with  the  Elector's  letter, 
conveying  the  expected  summons  to  proceed  to  Weimar.  On 
the  reader  the  news  it  contained  concerning  the  Landgrave  fell 
like  the  blows  of  a  sledge-hammer.  After  attentively  perusing 
the  letter  "  with  an  earnest  mien,"  he  said  :  "  Philip  the  Land 
grave  is  cracked  ;  he  is  now  asking  the  Emperor  to  let  him  keep 
both  wives." 

The  allusion  to  the  Landgrave's  mental  state  is  explained  by 
a  former  statement  of  Luther's  made  in  connection  with  some 
words  uttered  by  the  Landgrave's  father  :  "  The  old  Landgrave 

1  The  chief  passage  will  be  found  in  Kroker  (Mathesius,   "  Tisch- 
reden,"  p.  156  f.)  more  correctly  than  in  Loesche  (Mathesius,  "  Aufzeich- 
nungen,"  p.  117  ff.).     It  is  headed  "  DC  Macedonico  negotio,"  because 
in  Luther's  circle  Philip  of   Hesse  was  known  as  the  "  Macedonian." 
Where  no  other  reference  is  given  our  quotations  are  taken  from  this 

2  On  the  sign,  see  present  work,  vol.  iii.,  p.  231. 


[William  II]  used  to  say  to  his  son  Philip  :  '  If  you  take  after 
your  mother,  then  you  won't  come  to  much  ;  if  you  take  after 
me,  you  will  have  nothing  about  you  that  I  can  praise  ;  if  you 
take  after  both  of  us,  then  you  will  be  a  real  demon.'  '  Luther 
had  added  :  "I  fear  he  is  also  mad,  for  it  runs  in  the  family."1 
"  And  Philip  [Melanchthon]  said  :  '  This  [the  bigamy]  is  the 
beginning  of  his  insanity.'  "2 

When  Luther  re-entered,  so  the  narrator  continues,  "  he  was 
as  cheerful  as  could  be,  and  he  said  to  us  :  '  It  is  grand  having 
something  to  do,  for  then  we  get  ideas  ;  otherwise  we  do  nothing 
but  feed  and  swill.  How  our  Papists  will  scream  !  But  let  them 
howl  to  their  own  destruction.  Our  cause  is  a  good  one  and  no 
fault  is  to  be  found  with  our  way  of  life,  or  rather  [he  corrects 
himself]  with  the  life  of  those  who  take  it  seriously.  If  the 
Hessian  Landgrave  has  sinned,  then  that  is  sin  and  a  scandal. 
That  we  have  frequently  discounselled  by  good  and  holy  advice  ; 
they  have  seen  our  innocence  and  yet  refuse  to  see  it.  Hence 
they  [the  Papists]  are  now  forced  to  look  the  Hessian  "  in  anum  "  3 
(i.e.  are  witnesses  of  his  shame).  But  they  will  be  brought  to 
destruction  by  [our]  scandals  because  they  refuse  to  listen  to  the 
pure  doctrine  ;  for  God  will  not  on  this  account  forsake  us  or 
His  Word,  or  spare  them,  even  though  we  have  our  share  of  sin, 
for  He  has  resolved  to  overthrow  the  Papacy.  That  has  been 
decreed  by  God,  as  we  read  in  Daniel,  where  it  is  foretold  of  him 
[Antichrist]  who  is  even  now  at  the  door  :  "  And  none  shall,  help 
him  "  (Dan.  xi.  45).  In  former  times  no  power  was  able  to  root 
out  the  Pope  ;  in  our  own  day  no  one  will  be  able  to  help  him, 
because  Antichrist  is  revealed.' 

Thus  amidst  the  trouble  looming  he  finds  his  chief  consolation 
in  his  fanatical  self-persuasion  that  the  Papacy  must  fall  and 
that  he  is  the  chosen  instrument  to  bring  this  about,  i.e.  in  his 
supposed  mission  to  thwart  Antichrist,  a  Divine  mission  which 
could  not  be  contravened.  Hence  his  pseudo-mysticism  was 
once  again  made  to  serve  his  purpose. 

"  If  scandals  occur  amongst  us,"  he  continues,  "  let  us  not 
forget  that  they  existed  in  Christ's  own  circle.  The  Pharisees 
were  doubtless  in  glee  over  our  Lord  Christ  on  account  of  the 
wickedness  of  Judas.  In  the  same  way  the  Landgrave  has 
become  a  Judas  to  us.  '  Ah,  the  new  prophet  has  such  followers 
[as  Judas,  cried  the  foes  of  Christ  !]  What  good  can  come  of 
Christ  ?  ' — But  because  they  refused  to  open  their  eyes  to  the 
miracles,  they  were  forced  to  see  '  Christum  Crucifixum  '  and 
.  .  .  later  to  see  and  suffer  under  Titus.  But  our  sins  may 
obtain  pardon  and  be  easily  remedied  ;  it  is  only  necessary  that 

1  Thilip's  father  and  his  uncle  William  I   (the  elder  brother)  died 
insane.     (See  below,  p.  61.) 

2  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  143. 

3  On  the  Marcolfus  legend  (again  to  be  mentioned  on  the  next  page), 
cp.  vol.  iii.,  p.  268,  n.  4  ;  F.  H.  von  der  Hagen,  "  Narrenbuch,"   Halle, 
1811,  p.  256  ff.,  and  Rockwell,  pp.  160  and  163,  where  other  instances 
are  given  of  Luther's  use  of  the  same  figure. 


the  Emperor  should  forbid  [the  bigamy],  or  that  our  Princes 
should  intercede  [for  the  Hessian],  which  they  are  at  liberty  to 
do,  or  that  he  should  repudiate  the  step  he  took." 

"  David  also  fell,  and  surely  there  were  greater  scandals  under 
Moses  in  the  wilderness.  Moses  caused  his  own  masters  to  be 
slain.  .  .  .  But  God  had  determined  to  drive  out  the  heathen, 
hence  the  scandals  amongst  the  Jews  availed  not  to  prevent  it. 
Thus,  too,  our  sins  are  pardonable,  but  not  those  of  the  Papists ; 
for  they  are  contemners  of  God,  crucify  Christ  and,  though  they 
know  better,  defend  their  blasphemies." 

"  What  advantage  do  they  expect  of  it,"  he  goes  on  to  ask  in  an 
ironical  vein  ;  "  they  put  men  to  death,  but  we  work  for  life  and 
take  many  wives."  This  he  said,  according  to  the  notes,  "  with 
a  joyful  countenance  and  amidst  loud  laughter."1  "God  has 
resolved  to  vex  the  people,  and,  when  my  turn  conies,  I  will  give 
them  hard  words  and  tell  them  to  look  Marcolfus  '  in  anum  ' 
since  they  refuse  to  look  him  in  the  face."  He  then  went  on  : 
"  I  don't  see  why  I  should  trouble  myself  about  the  matter.  I 
shall  commend  it  to  our  God.  Should  the  Macedonian  [the 
Landgrave]  desert  us,  Christ  will  stand  by  vis,  the  blessed 

Schevlimini  [TV^  IV  :  Sit  at  my  right  hand  (Ps.  cix.  1)].  He 
has  surely  brought  us  out  of  even  tighter  places.  The  restitution 
of  Wiirtemberg  puts  this  scandal  into  the  shade,  and  the  Sacra- 
mentarians  and  the  revolt  [of  the  Peasants]  ;  and  yet  God 
delivered  us  out  of  all  that."  What  he  means  to  say  is  :  Even 
greater  scandal  was  given  by  Philip  of  Hesse  when  he  imposed 
on  Wiirtemberg  the  Protestant  Duke  Ulrich,  heedless  of  the 
rights  of  King  Ferdinand  and  of  the  opposition  of  the  Emperor 
and  the  Church  ;2  in  the  same  way  the  ever-recurring  dissensions 
on  the  Sacrament  were  an  even  greater  scandal,  and  so  was  the 
late  Peasant  War  which  threatened  worse  things  to  the  Evan 
gelical  cause  than  the  Hessian  affair. 

"  Should  the  Landgrave  fall  away  from  us." — This  fear 
lest  Philip  should  desert  their  party  Luther  had  expressed 
in  some  rather  earlier  utterances  in  1540,  when  he  had 
described  more  particularly  the  Landgrave's  character  and 
attitude.  "  A  strange  man  !  "  he  says  of  him.  "  He  was 
born  under  a  star.  He  is  bent  upon  having  his  own  way, 
and  so  fancies  he  will  obtain  the  approval  of  Emperor  and 
Pope.  It  may  be  that  he  will  fall  away  from  us  on  account 
of  this  affair.  .  .  .  He  is  a  real  Hessian  ;  he  cannot  be  still 
nor  does  he  know  how  to  yield.  When  once  this  business 
is  over  he  will  be  hatching  something  else.  But  perhaps 

1  "  '  Ipsi  tamen  occidunt  homines  [heretics],  nos  laboramus  pro  vita 
et  ducimus  plures  uxores.'      Hcec  Icetissimo  vultu  dixit,  non  sine  magno 

2  Cp.  ibid.,  p.  139. 


death  will  carry  him,  or  her  (Margaret),  off  before."  A 
Hessian  Councillor  who  was  present  quite  bore  out  what 
Luther  had  said  :  Nothing  was  of  any  avail  with  the  Land 
grave,  "  what  he  once  undertakes  he  cannot  be  induced 
to  give  up."  In  proof  of  this  those  present  instanced  the 
violence  and  utter  injustice  of  the  raid  made  on  Wiirtem- 
berg.  "  Because  he  is  such  a  strange  character,"  Luther 
remarked,  "  I  must  let  it  pass.  The  Emperor,  moreover, 
will  certainly  not  let  him  have  his  way."1  "  No  sensible 
man  would  have  undertaken  that  campaign,  but  he,  carried 
away  by  fury,  managed  it  quite  well.  Only  wait  a  little  ! 
It  [the  new  scandal]  will  pass  !  "  Luther  was  also  ready 
to  acknowledge  that  the  Landgrave,  in  spite  of  the  promises 
arid  offers  of  the  Emperor  and  Duke  of  Saxony,  had 
remained  so  far  "  very  faithful  "  to  the  Evangel.2 

In  the  conversation  on  June  18,  Luther  adopts  a  forcedly  light 
view  of  the  matter  :  "  It  is  only  a  three-months'  affair,  then  the 
whole  thing  will  fizzle  out.  Would  to  God  Philip  would  look  at 
it  in  this  light  instead  of  grieving  so  over  it  !  The  Papists  are 
now  Demeas  and  I  Mitio  "  ;  with  these  words  commences  a 
string  of  word-for-word  quotations  from  Terence's  play  " Adelphi," 
all  concerning  the  harsh  and  violent  Demeas,  whom  Luther  takes 
as  a  figure  of  the  Catholic  Church,  and  the  mild  and  peaceable 
Mitio,  in  whom  Luther  sees  himself.  In  the  Notes  the  sentences 
are  given  almost  unaltered  :  "  The  prostitute  and  the  matron 
living  in  one  house."  "  A  son  is  born."  "  Margaret  has  no 
dowry."  "  I,  Mitio,  say  :  '  May  the  gods  direct  all  for  the  best  !  '  ' 
"  Man's  life  is  like  a  throw  of  the  dice."3 

"  I  overlook  much  worse  things  than  this,"  he  continues.  "  If 
anyone  says  to  me  :  Are  you  pleased  with  what  has  taken  place  ? 
I  reply  :  No  ;  oh,  would  that  I  could  alter  it.  Since  I  cannot,  I 
am  resolved  to  bear  it  with  equanimity.  I  commit  it  all  to  our 
dear  God.  Let  Him  preserve  His  Church  as  it  now  stands  in 
order  that  it  may  remain  in  the  unity  of  faith  and  doctrine  and 
the  pure  confession  of  the  Word  ;  all  I  hope  for  is  that  it  may 
never  grow  worse  !  " 

"  On  rising  from  the  table  he  said  cheerfully  :  I  will  not  give 
the  devil  and  the  Papists  the  satisfaction  of  thinking  that  I  am 
troubled  about  the  matter.  God  will  see  to  it.  To  Him  we 
commend  the  whole." 

In  thus  shifting  the  responsibility  from  his  own  shoulders  and 
putting  it  on  God — -Whose  chosen  instrument,  even  at  the  most 

1  Ibid.,  p.  133.     He  speaks  in  the  same  way  of  the  Emperor  on  p.  160. 
t'lbid.,  p.  139.     May  21  to  June  11,  1540. 

3  For  the  quotations  from  Terence,  see  Rockwell,  p.  164.  Cp. 
Kroker,  ibid.,  p.  158. 


critical  juncture,  he  would  still  persuade  himself  he  was — he  finds 
the  most  convenient  escape  from  anxiety  and  difficulty.  It  has 
all  been  laid  upon  us  by  God  :  "  We  must  put  up  with  the  devil 
and  his  filth  as  long  as  we  live."  Therefore,  forward  against  the 
Papists,  who  seek  to  conceal  their  "  sodomitic  vices  "  behind  this 
bigamy  !  "  We  may  not  and  shall  not  yield.  Let  them  do  their 
dirty  work  and  let  us  lay  odds  on."1  With  these  words  he  is 
again  quite  himself.  He  is  again  the  inspired  prophet,  oblivious 
of  all  save  his  mission  to  champion  God's  cause  ;  all  his  difficulties 
have  vanished  and  even  his  worst  moral  faults  have  disappeared. 
But  in  this  frame  of  mind  Luther  was  not  always  able  to  persevere. 
"  All  I  hope  for  is  that  it  may  never  grow  worse."  The  de 
pressing  thought  implied  in  these  words  lingered  in  the  depths  of 
his  soul  in  spite  of  all  his  forced  merriment  and  bravado.  "  Alas, 
my  God,  what  have  we  not  to  put  up  with  from  fanatics  and 
scandals  !  One  follows  on  the  heels  of  the  other ;  when  this  [the 
bigamy]  has  been  adjusted,  then  it  is  certain  that  something  else 
will  spring  up,  and  many  new  sects  will  also  arise.  .  .  .  But  God 
will  preserve  His  Christendom."2 

Meanwhile  the  remarkably  speedy  recovery  of  his  friend 
Melanchthon  consoled  him.  Soon  after  the  arrival  of  the 
letters  mentioned  above  Luther  set  out  for  Weimar.  His 
attentions  to  the  sick  man,  and  particularly  his  words  of 
encouragement,  succeeded,  so  to  say,  in  recalling  him  to 
life.  Luther  speaks  of  it  in  his  letters  at  that  time  as  a 
"  manifest  miracle  of  God,"  which  puts  our  unbelief  to 
shame.3  The  fanciful  embellishment  which  he  gave  to  the 
incident  when  narrating  it,  making  it  into  a  sort  of  miracle, 
has  left  its  traces  in  his  friend  Ratzcberger's  account.4 

Confident  as  Luther's  language  here  seems,  when  it  is  a 
question  of  infusing  new  courage  into  himself,  still  he  admits 
plainly  enough  one  point,  concerning  which  he  has  not  a 
word  to  say  in  his  correspondence  with  strangers  or  in  his 
public  utterances  :  A  sin,  over  and  above  all  his  previous 
crimes,  now  weighed  upon  the  Hessian  and  his  party  owing 
to  what  had  taken  place.  He  repeatedly  uses  the  words 
"  sin,"  "  scandal,"  "  offence  "  when  speaking  of  the  bigamy  ; 
he  feels  the  need  of  seeking  consolation  in  the  "  unpardon 
able  "  sins  of  the  Catholics  for  the  moral  failings  of  his  own 
party,  which,  after  all,  would  be  remitted  by  God.  Nor 

1  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  153. 

2  Ibid.,  p.  138. 

3  To  Johann  Lang,  July  2,  1540,  "  Briefe,"  4,  p.  298  :    "  miraculo 
Dei  manifesto  vivit." 

4  Ratzeberger,  p.  102  f.    Cp.  present  work,  vol.  iii.,  p.  162. 


does  the  Landgrave's  sin  consist  in  his  carelessness  about 
keeping  the  matter  secret.  Luther  compares  his  sin  to 
David's,  whose  adultery  had  been  forgiven  by  God,  and 
reckons  Philip's  new  sin  amongst  the  sins  of  his  co-religion 
ists,  who,  for  all  their  failings,  were  destined,  with  God's 
help,  to  overthrow  the  Papal  Antichrist.  "  Would  that  I 
could  alter  it  !  "  Such  an  admission  he  would  not  at  any 
price  make  before  the  princely  Courts  concerned,  or  before 
the  world.  Still  less  would  he  have  admitted  publicly,  that 
they  were  obliged  "  to  put  up  with  the  devil's  filth."  It 
is  therefore  quite  correct  when  Kostlin,  in  his  Biography 
of  Luther,  points  out,  speaking  of  the  Table-Talk  :  "  That 
there  had  been  sin  and  scandal,  his  words  by  no  means 
deny."1  Concerning  the  whole  affair  Kostlin  moreover 
remarks  :  "  Philip's  bigamy  is  the  greatest  blot  on  the 
history  of  the  Reformation,  and  remains  a  blot  in  Luther's 
life  in  spite  of  everything  that  can  be  alleged  in  explanation 
or  excuse."2 

F.  W.  Hassencamp,  another  Protestant,  says  in  his 
"  Hessische  Kirchengeschichte  "  :  "  His  statements  at  that 
time  concerning  his  share  in  the  Landgrave's  bigamy  prove 
that,  mentally,  he  was  on  the  verge  of  despair.  Low 
pleasantry  and  vulgarity  are  mixed  up  with  threats  and 
words  of  prayer."  "  Nowhere  does  the  great  Reformer 
appear  so  small  as  here."3 — In  the  "  Historisch-politische 
Blatter,"  in  1846,  K.  E.  Jarcke  wrote  of  the  Table-Talk 
concerning  the  bigamy  :  "  Rarely  has  any  man,  however 
coarse-minded,  however  blinded  by  hate  and  hardened  by 
years  of  combat  against  his  own  conscience,  expressed  him 
self  more  hideously  or  with  greater  vulgarity."4 

"  After  so  repeatedly  describing  himself  as  the  prophet 
of  the  Germans,"  says  A.  Hausrath,  "  he  ought  not  to  have 
had  the  weakness  to  seek  a  compromise  between  morality 
and  policy,  but,  like  the  preacher  robed  in  camels'  hair,  he 
should  have  boldly  told  the  Hessian  Princelet :  It  is  not 
lawful  for  you  to  have  her."  Hausrath,  in  1904,  is  voicing 
the  opinion  of  many  earlier  Protestant  historians  when  he 
regrets  "  that,  owing  to  weariness  and  pressure  from  with- 

1  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  526.  2  Ibid.,  p.  478. 

3  Thus  Hassencamp,  vol.  i.,  p.  507,  though  he  was  using  the  earlier 
editions  of  the  Table-Talk,  which  are  somewhat  more  circumspect. 

4  Vol.  xviii.,  p.  461. 


out,"  Luther  "  sanctioned  an  exception  to  God's  un 
conditional  command."  "  The  band  of  Protestant  leaders, 
once  so  valiant  and  upright,"  so  he  says,  "  had  for  once 
been  caught  sleeping.  Evening  was  approaching  and  the 
day  was  drawing  in,  and  the  Lord  their  God  had  left  them."1 

Luther  at  the  Conference  of  Eisenach. 
The  Landgrave's  Indignation. 

An  official  conference  of  theologians  and  Councillors  from 
Hesse  and  the  Electorate  of  Saxony  met  at  Eisenach  at  the 
instance  of  Philip  on  July  15,  1540,  in  order  to  deliberate 
on  the  best  means  of  escaping  the  legal  difficulty  and  of 
satisfying  Philip's  demand,  that  the  theologians  should 
give  him  their  open  support.  Luther,  too,  put  in  an  appear 
ance  and  lost  no  time  in  entering  into  the  debate  with  his 
wonted  bluster. 

According  to  one  account,  on  their  first  arrival,  he  bitterly 
reproached  ("  acerbissimis  vcrbis  ")2  the  Hessian  theo 
logians.  The  report  of  the  Landgrave's  sister  says,  that 
his  long  talk  with  Philip's  Chancellor  so  affected  the  latter 
that  the  "  tears  streamed  down  his  cheeks,"  particularly 
when  Luther  rounded  on  the  Hessian  Court  officials  for 
their  too  great  inclination  towards  polygamy.3  Though 
these  reports  of  the  effect  of  his  strictures  and  exhortations 
may  be  exaggerated,  no  less  than  the  remark  of  Jonas,  who 
says,  that  the  "  Hessians  went  home  from  Eisenach  with 
long  faces,"4  still  it  is  quite  likely  that  Luther  made  a 
great  impression  on  many  by  his  behaviour,  particularly 
by  the  energy  with  which  he  now  stood  up  for  the  cause  of 
monogamy  and  appealed  to  the  New  Testament  on  its 

Without  denying  the  possibility  of  an  exception  in  certain 
rare  cases,  he  now  insisted  very  strongly  on  the  general 

The  instructions  given  to  the  Hessians  showed  him 
plainly  that  the  Landgrave  was  determined  not  to  conceal 
his  bigamy  any  longer,  or  to  have  it  branded  as  mere  con 
cubinage  ;  the  theologians,  so  the  document  declares,  would 
surely  never  have  advised  him  to  have  recourse  to  sinful 

1  "  Luthers  Leben,"  2,  1904,  p.  403  f. 

2  Gualther,  in  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  186,  n.  1.         3  Ibid.         4  Ibid. 


concubinage.  That  he  was  not  married  to  his  second  wife 
was  a  lie,  which  he  would  not  consent  to  tell  were  he  to  be 
asked  point-blank  ;  his  bigamy  was  really  a  dispensation 
"  permitted  by  God,  admitted  by  the  learned,  and  consented 
to  by  his  wife."  If  "  hard  pressed  "  he  must  disclose  it. 
To  introduce  polygamy  generally  was  of  course  quite  a 
different  matter,  and  was  not  to  be  thought  of.1 — Needless 
to  say,  Luther  was  ready  enough  to  back  up  this  last  stipu 
lation,  for  his  own  sake  as  much  as  for  the  Landgrave's. 

During  the  first  session  of  the  conference,  held  in  the 
Rathaus  at  Eisenach,  Luther  formally  and  publicly  com 
mitted  himself  to  the  expedient  at  which  he  had  faintly 
hinted  even  previously.  He  unreservedly  proposed  the 
telling  of  a  lie.  Should  a  situation  arise  where  it  was 
necessary  to  reply  "  yes  "  or  "no,"  then  they  must  resign 
themselves  to  a  downright  "  No."  "  What  harm  would  it 
do,"  he  said  on  July  15,  according  to  quite  trustworthy 
notes,2  "  if  a  man  told  a  good,  lusty  lie  in  a  worthy  cause 
and  for  the  sake  of  the  Christian  Churches  ?  "  Similarly 
he  said  on  July  17  :  "  To  lie  in  case  of  necessity,  or  for 
convenience,  or  in  excuse,  such  lying  would  not  be  against 
God  ;  He  was  ready  to  take  such  lies  on  Himself."3 

The  Protestant  historian  of  the  Hessian  Bigamy  says  in 
excuse  of  this  :  "  Luther  was  faced  by  the  problem  whether 
a  lie  told  in  case  of  necessity  could  be  regarded  as  a  sin  at 
all  "  ;  he  did  not  have  recourse  to  the  "  expedient  of  a 
mental  reservation  fas  he  had  done  when  recommending  an 

u  o 

ambiguous  reply]  "  ;  he  merely  absolved  "  the  '  mendacium 
officiosum  '  [the  useful  lie]  of  sinfulness.  This  done,  Luther 
could  with  a  good  conscience  advise  the  telling  of  such  a 

Nevertheless  Luther  felt  called  upon  again  to  return  to 

1  "  Philipps  Brief wechsel,"  1,  p.  369  f. 

2  Ibid.,  p.  373.     Concerning  the  notes  which  the  editor  calls  the 
"  Protokoll,"  see  N.  Paulus  in  "  Hist.-pol.  Bl.,"  135,  1905,  p.  323  f. 

3  Ibid.,  p.  375. 

4  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.   179.     The  Protestant  theologian  Th.  Brieger 
says  ("  Luther  und  die  Nebenehe,"  etc.,  "  Preuss.  Jahrb.,"  135,  1909, 
p.  46)  :    "  As  is  known,  in  the  summer  of  1540,  when  the  matter  had 
already  been  notorious  for  months,  Luther  gave  the  Landgrave  the 
advice,  that  he  should  give  a  flat  denial  of  the  step  he  had  taken.  .  .  . 
'  A  lie  of  necessity  was  not  against  God  ;    He  was  ready  to  take  that 
upon  Himself.' — Just  as  in  our  own  day  men  of  the  highest  moral 
character  hold  similar  views  concerning  certain  forms  of  the  lie  of 


the  alleged  Confession  made.  He  is  even  anxious  to  make 
out  that  his  memorandum  had  been  an  Absolution  coming 
under  the  Seal  of  Confession,  and  that  the  Absolution  might 
not  be  "  revealed  "  :  "If  the  Confession  was  to  be  regarded 
as  secret,  then  the  Absolution  also  must  be  secret."1  "  He 
considered  the  reply  given  in  Confession  as  an  Absolution," 
says  Rockwell.2  Moreover  he  gave  it  to  be  understood,  that, 
should  the  Landgrave  say  he  had  committed  bigamy  as  a 
right  to  which  he  was  entitled,  and  not  as  a  favour,  then  he, 
Luther,  was  quit  of  all  responsibility  ;  it  was  not  the  con 
fessor's  business  to  give  public  testimony  concerning  what 
had  taken  place  in  Confession.3 

Practically,  however,  according  to  the  notes  of  the 
conference,  his  advice  still  was  that  the  Landgrave  should 
conceal  the  bigamy  behind  the  ambiguous  declaration  that  : 
"  Margaret  is  a  concubine."  Under  the  influence  of  the 
hostility  to  the  bigamy  shown  by  the  Saxon  Courts  he 
urged  so  strongly  the  Bible  arguments  against  polygamy, 
that  the  Hessians  began  to  fear  his  withdrawal  from  his 
older  standpoint. 

The  Old-Testament  examples,  he  declared  emphatically,  could 
neither  "  exclude  nor  bind,"  i.e.  could  not  settle  the  matter 
either  way  ;  Paul's  words  could  not  be  overthrown  ;  in  the  New 
Testament  nothing  could  be  found  (in  favour  of  bigamy),  "  on 
the  contrary  the  New  Testament  confirmed  the  original  institu 
tion  [monogamy]  "  ;  therefore  "  since  both  the  Divine  and  the 
secular  law  were  at  one,  nothing  could  be  done  against  it  ;  he 
would  not  take  it  upon  his  conscience."  It  is  true,  that,  on  the 
other  side,  must  be  put  the  statement,  that  he  saw  no  reason  why 

1  "  Philipps  Brief wechsel,"  1,  p.  373. 

2  P.  182. — Rockwell  (p.  181,  n.  4)  also  reminds  us  that  Luther  had 
written  to  the  Elector  :  "  In  matters  of  Confession  it  is  seemly  that  both 
the  circumstances  and  the  advice  given  in  Confession  "  should  be  kept 
secret.     Luther,   in   "  Lauterbachs  Tagebuch,"  p.  196,  see  p.  37,  n.  2. 
The  Elector  wrote  to  the  Landgrave  in  a  letter  dated  June  27,  1540 
(quoted  by  Rockwell,  ibid.,  from  the  archives),  that  the  marriage  could 
not  be  openly  discussed,  because,  otherwise,   "  the  Seal  of  Confession 
would  be  broken  in  regard  to  those  who  had  given  the  dispensation." 
In  this   he    re-echoes  Luther. — Rockwell,  p.   182    (cp.  p.   185,  n.   3), 
thinks,  that  Luther  was  following  the  "  more  rigorous  "  theologians  of 
earlier  days,  who  had  taught  that  it  was  "  a  mortal  sin  for  the  penitent 
to  reveal  what  the  priest  had  told  him."    This  is  not  the  place  to  rectify 
such  misunderstandings. 

3  Cp.  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  175,  with  a  reference  to  Luther's  statement 
of  July  17  :    If  the  Landgrave  would  not  be  content  with  a  dispensa 
tion,  "  and  claimed  it  as  a  right,  then  they  were  quit  of  their  advice  " 
("  Philipps  Brief  wechsel,"  1,  p.  375).     It  is  difficult  to  follow  Luther 
through  all  his  attempts  to  evade  the  issue. 


the  Prince  should  not  take  the  matter  upon  his  own  conscience, 
declare  himself  convinced,  and  thus  "  set  their  [the  theo 
logians']  consciences  free."  That  he  still  virtually  stood  by  what 
had  happened,  is  also  seen  from  his  plain  statement  :  "  Many 
things  are  right  before  God  in  the  tribunal  of  conscience,  which, 
to  the  world,  must  appear  wrong."  "  In  support  of  this  he 
brought  forward  the  example,"  so  the  report  of  the  Conference 
proceeds,  "  of  the  seduction  of  a  virgin  and  of  an  illegitimate 
birth."  He  also  lays  stress  on  the  principle  that  they,  the 
theologians,  had  merely  "  to  dispense  according  to  God's  com 
mand  in  the  tribunal  of  conscience,"  but  were  unable  to  bear 
witness  to  it  publicly  ;  hence  their  advice  to  the  Landgrave  had 
in  reality  never  been  given  at  all,  for  it  was  no  business  of  the 
"forum  externum  "  ;  the  Landgrave  had  acted  in  accordance  with 
his  own  ideas,  just  as  he  had  undertaken  many  things  "  against 
their  advice,"  for  instance,  "  the  raid  on  Wirtenbergk."  He  was 
doing  the  same  in  "  this  instance  too,  and  acting  on  his  own 

Again,  for  his  own  safety,  he  makes  a  request  :  "  Beg 
him  [the  Prince]  most  diligently  to  draw  in  [to  keep  it 
secret],"  otherwise,  so  he  threatens,  he  will  declare  that  "  Luther 
acted  like  a  fool,  and  will  take  the  shame  on  himself  ";  he  would 
"  say  :  I  made  a  mistake  and  I  retract  it  ;  he  would  retract  it 
even  at  the  expense  of  his  own  honour  ;  as  for  his  honour  he 
would  pray  God  to  restore  it."1 

In  a  written  memorandum  which  he  presented  during  the 
Conference  he  makes  a  similar  threat,  which,  however,  as  already 
shown  in  the  case  of  Thann  (above,  p.  40  f.),  it  is  wrong  to  take  as 
meaning  that  he  really  declared  he  had  acted  wrongly  in  the 
advice  given  to  the  Landgrave. 

He  begs  the  Landgrave,  "  again  to  conceal  the  matter  and 
keep  it  secret ;  for  to  defend  it  publicly  as  right  was  impossible  "  ; 
should  the  Landgrave,  however,  be  determined,  by  revealing  it, 
to  "  cause  annoyance  and  disgrace  to  our  Confession,  Churches 
and  Estates,"  then  it  was  his  duty  beforehand  to  consult  all 
these  as  to  whether  they  were  willing  to  take  the  responsibility, 
since  without  them  the  matter  could  not  take  place  and  Luther 
and  Melanchthon  alone  "  could  do  nothing  without  their 
authority.  And  rather  than  assist  in  publicly  defending  it,  I 
would  repudiate  my  advice  and  Master  Philip's  [Melanchthon's], 
were  it  made  public,  for  it  was  not  a  public  advice,  and  is  annulled 
by  publication.  Or,  if  this  is  no  use,  and  they  insist  on  calling 
it  a  counsel  and  not  a  Confession,2  which  it  really  was,  then  I 
should  rather  admit  that  I  made  a  mistake  and  acted  foolishly 
and  now  crave  for  pardon  ;  for  the  scandal  is  great  and  intoler 
able.  And  my  gracious  Lord  the  Landgrave  ought  not  to  forget 
that  his  Serene  Highness  was  lucky  enough  in  being  able  to  take 
the  girl  secretly  with  a  good  conscience,  by  virtue  of  our  advice 

1_"  Philipps  Briefwechsel,"  1,  p.  373  f.  "  Anal.  Luth.,"  ed.  Kolde, 
p.  356  seq. 

2  "  Bichte,"  not  "Bitte,"  is  clearly  the  true  reading  here. 


in  Confession  ;  seeing  that  H.S.H.  has  no  need  or  cause  for 
making  the  matter  public,  and  can  easily  keep  it  secret,  which 
would  obviate  all  this  great  trouble  and  misfortune.  Beyond 
this  I  shall  not  go."1 

These  attempts  at  explanation  and  subterfuge  to  which  the 
sadly  embarrassed  authors  of  the  "  testimony  "  had  recourse 
were  keenly  criticised  by  Feige,  the  Hessian  Chancellor,  in  the 
sober,  legal  replies  given  by  him  at  the  Conference.2  He  pointed 
out,  that  :  The  Landgrave,  his  master,  could  not  now  "  regard 
or  admit  his  marriage  to  be  a  mere  '  liaison  '  "  ;  he  would  indeed 
keep  it  secret  so  far  as  in  him  lay,  but  deny  it  he  could  not  with 
out  prejudice  to  his  own  honour  ;  "  since  it  has  become  so 
widely  known  "  ;  those  to  whom  he  had  appealed,  "  as  the  chiefs 
of  our  Christian  Churches,  for  a  testimony,"  viz.  Luther  and  his 
theologians,  must  not  now  leave  him  in  the  lurch,  "but  bar 
witness,  should  necessity  arise,  that  he  had  not  acted  un- 
christianly  in  this  matter,  or  against  God."  Philip,  moreover, 
from  the  very  first,  had  no  intention  of  restricting  the  matter 
to  the  private  tribunal  of  conscience  ;  the  request  brought  by 
Bucer  plainly  showed,  that  he  "  was  publicly  petitioning  the 
tribunal  of  the  Church."  The  fact  is  that  the  instructions  given 
to  Bucer  clearly  conveyed  the  Prince's  intention  of  making 
public  the  bigamy  and  the  advice  by  which  it  was  justified. 

Hence,  proceeded  Feige  :  Out  with  it  plainly,  out  with  the 
theological  grounds  which  "  moved  the  theologians  to  grant  such 
a  dispensation  !  "  If  these  grounds  were  not  against  God,  then 
the  Landgrave  could  take  his  stand  on  them  before  the  secular 
law,  the  Emperor,  the  Fiscal  and  the  Courts  of  Justice.  Should 
the  theologians,  however,  really  wish  to  "  repudiate  "  their 
advice,  nothing  would  be  gained  ;  the  scandal  would  be  just  as 
great  as  if  they  had  "  admitted  "  it  ;  and  further,  it  would  cause 
a  split  in  their  own  confession,  for  the  Prince  would  be  obliged 
to  "  disclose  the  advice."  Luther  wanted  to  get  out  of  the  hole 
by  saying  he  had  acted  foolishly  !  Did  he  not  see  how  "  detri 
mental  this  would  be  to  his  reputation  and  teaching  "  ?  He 
should  "  consider  what  he  had  written  in  his  Exposition  of 
Genesis  twelve  years  previously,  and  that  this  had  never  been 
called  into  question  by  any  of  his  disciples  or  followers."  He 
should  remember  all  that  had  been  done  against  the  Papacy 
through  his  work,  for  which  the  Bible  gave  far  less  sanction  than 
for  the  dispensation,  and  which  "  nevertheless  had  been  accepted 
and  maintained,  in  opposition  to  the  worldly  powers,  by  an 
appeal  to  a  Christian  Council." 

Hence  the  Landgrave  must  urgently  request,  concludes  Feige, 
that  the  theologians  would,  at  least  "  until  the  Council,"  take  his 
part  and  "  admit  that  what  he  had  done  had  been  agreeable  to 

The    Saxon   representatives   present   at    the    Conference 

1  "  Briefe,"  6,  p.  272  f.,  dated  July  20,  1540. 

2  Kolde,  loc.  cit.,  p.  357-360. 


were,  however,  ready  to  follow  the  course  indicated  by 
Luther  in  case  of  necessity,  viz.  to  tell  a  downright  lie  ; 
rather  than  that  the  Prince  should  be  forced  to  vindicate 
openly  his  position  it  was  better  to  deny  it  flatly.  They 
declared,  without,  however,  convincing  the  Conference, 
"  that  a  flat  denial  was  less  culpable  before  God  and  in 
conscience — as  could  be  proved  by  many  examples  from 
Scripture — than  to  cause  a  great  scandal  and  lamentable 
falling  away  of  many  good  people  by  a  plain  and  open 
admission  and  vindication."1 

Philip  of  Hesse  was  not  particularly  edified  by  the  result 
of  the  Eisenach  Conference.  Of  all  the  reports  which  gradu 
ally  reached  him,  those  which  most  aroused  his  resent 
ment  were,  first,  that  Luther  should  expect  him  to  tell  a  lie 
and  deny  the  second  marriage,  and,  secondly,  his  threat  to 
withdraw  the  testimony,  as  issued  in  error. 

Luther  had,  so  far,  avoided  all  direct  correspondence 
with  the  Landgrave  concerning  the  disastrous  affair.  Now, 
however,  he  was  forced  to  make  some  statement  in  reply  to 
a  not  very  friendly  letter  addressed  to  him  by  the  Prince. 2 

In  this  Philip,  alluding  to  the  invitation  to  tell  a  lie,  says  : 
"  I  will  not  lie,  for  lying  has  an  evil  sound  and  no  Apostle 
or  even  Christian  has  ever  taught  it,  nay,  Christ  has  for 
bidden  it  and  said  we  should  keep  to  yea  and  nay.  That  I 
should  declare  the  lady  to  be  a  whore,  that  I  refuse  to  do, 
for  your  advice  does  not  permit  of  it.  I  should  surely  have 
had  no  need  of  your  advice  to  take  a  whore,  neither  does  it 
do  you  credit."  Yet  he  declares  himself  ready  to  give  an 
"  obscure  reply,"  i.e.  an  ambiguous  one  ;  without  need  he 
would  not  disclose  the  marriage. 

Nor  does  Luther's  threat  of  retracting  the  advice  and  of 
saying  that  he  had  "  acted  foolishly  "  affright  him.  The 
threat  he  unceremoniously  calls  a  bit  of  foolery.  "As  to 
what  you  told  my  Councillors,  viz.  that,  rather  than  reveal 
my  reasons,  you  would  say  you  had  acted  foolishly,  please 
don't  commit  such  folly  on  my  account,  for  then  I  will 
confess  the  reasons,  and,  in  case  of  necessity,  prove  them 
now  or  later,  unless  the  witnesses  die  in  the  meantime." 
"  Nothing  more  dreadful  has  ever  come  to  my  ears  than  that 

1  Kolde,  loc.  cit.,  p.  362  seq. 

2  Dated  July  18,  1540,  "  Philipps  Brief wechsel,"  1,  p.  380  ff. 


it  should  have  occurred  to  a  brave  man  to  retract  what 
he  had  granted  by  a  written  dispensation  to  a  troubled 
conscience.  If  you  can  answer  for  it  to  God,  why  do  you 
fear  and  shrink  from  the  world  ?  If  the  matter  is  right  '  in 
conscientia  '  before  the  Almighty,  the  Eternal  and  Immortal 
God,  what  does  the  accursed,  sodomitic,  usurious  and 
besotted  world  matter  ?  "  Here  he  is  using  the  very  words 
in  which  Luther  was  wont  to  speak  of  the  world  and  of  the 
contempt  with  which  it  should  be  met.  He  proceeds  with  a 
touch  of  sarcasm  :  "  Would  to  God  that  you  and  your  like 
would  inveigh  against  and  punish  those  in  whom  you  see 
such  things  daily,  i.e.  adultery,  usury  and  drunkenness — 
and  who  y  c  t  are  supposed  to  be  members  of  the  Church — not 
merely  in  writings  and  sermons  but  with  serious  considera 
tions  and  the  ban  which  the  Apostles  employed,  in  order 
that  the  whole  world  may  not  be  scandalised.  You  see  these 
things,  yet  what  do  you  and  the  others  do  ?  "  In  thus 
finding  fault  with  the  Wittenberg  habits,  he  would  appear 
to  include  the  Elector  of  Saxony,  who  had  a  reputation  for 
intemperance.  He  knew  that  Luther's  present  attitude 
was  in  part  determined  by  consideration  for  his  sovereign. 
In  his  irritation  he  also  has  a  sly  hit  at  the  Wittenberg 
theologians  :  At  Eisenach  his  love  for  the  "  lady  "  (Margaret) 
had  been  looked  upon  askance  ;  "  I  confess  that  I  love  her, 
but  in  all  honour.  .  .  .  But  that  I  should  have  taken  her 
because  she  pleased  me,  that  is  only  natural,  for  I  see  that 
you  holy  people  also  take  those  that  please  you.  Therefore 
you  may  well  bear  with  me,  a  poor  sinner." 

Luther  replied  on  July  24, l  that  he  had  not  deserved  that 
the  Landgrave  should  write  to  him  in  so  angry  a  tone.  The 
latter  was  wrong  in  supposing,  that  he  wanted  to  get  his 
neck  out  of  the  noose  and  was  not  doing  all  that  he  could 
to  "  serve  the  Prince  humbly  and  faithfully."  It  was  not 
no  his  own  account  that  he  wished  to  keep  his  advice 
secret ;  "  for  though  all  the  devils  wished  the  advice  to  be 
made  public,  I  would  give  them  by  God's  Grace  such  an 
answer  that  they  would  not  find  any  fault  in  it." 

It  was,  so  Luther  says  in  this  letter,  a  secret  counsel  as  "  all 
the  devils  "  knew,  the  keeping  secret  of  which  he  had  requested, 
"  with  all  diligence,"  and  which,  even  at  the  worst,  he  would  be 

i  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  6,  p.  273  ff. 


the  last  to  bring  to  light.  That  he,  or  the  Prince  himself,  was 
bound  to  silence  by  the  Seal  of  Confession,  he  does  not  say, 
though  this  would  have  been  the  place  to  emphasise  it.  He 
merely  states  that  he  knew  what,  in  the  case  of  a  troubled 
conscience,  "  might  be  remitted  out  of  mercy  before  God,"  and 
what  was  not  right  apart  from  this  necessity.  "  I  should  be 
sorry  to  see  your  Serene  Highness  starting  a  literary  feud  with 
me."  It  was  true  he  could  not  allow  the  Prince,  who  was  "  of 
the  same  faith  "  as  himself,  "  to  incur  danger  and  disgrace  "  ; 
but,  should  he  disclose  the  counsel,  the  theologians  would  not  be 
in  a  position  to  "  get  him  out  of  the  bother,"  because,  in  the  eyes 
of  the  world,  "  even  a  hundred  Luthers,  Philips  and  others  " 
could  not  change  the  law  ;  the  secret  marriage  could  never  be 
publicly  held  as  valid,  though  valid  in  the  tribunal  of  conscience. 
He  wished  to  press  the  matter  before  the  worldly  authorities  ; 
but  here  the  Prince's  marriage  would  never  be  acknowledged  ; 
he  would  only  be  exposing  himself  to  penalties,  and  withdrawing 
himself  from  the  "  protection  and  assistance  of  the  Divine 
Judgment  "  under  which  he  stood  so  long  as  he  regarded  it  as  a 
marriage  merely  in  conscience. 

In  this  letter  Luther  opposes  the  "  making  public  of  the 
advice,"  which  he  dreaded,  by  the  most  powerful  motive  at  his 
command  :  The  result  of  the  disclosure  would  be,  that  "  at  last 
your  Serene  Highness  would  be  obliged  to  put  away  your  sweet 
heart  as  a  mere  whore."  He  would  do  better  to  allow  her  to  be 
now  regarded  as  a  "  whore,  although  to  us  three,  i.e.  in  God's 
sight,  she  is  really  a  wedded  concubine  "  ;  in  all  this  the  Prince 
would  still  have  a  good  conscience,  "  for  the  whole  affair  was  due 
to  his  distress  of  conscience,  as  we  believe,  and,  hence,  to  your 
Serene  Highness's  conscience,  she  is  no  mere  prostitute." 

There  were,  however,  three  more  bitter  pills  for  the  Landgrave 
to  swallow.  He  had  pleaded  his  distress  of  conscience.  Luther 
hints,  that,  "  one  of  our  best  friends  "  had  said  :  "  The  Land 
grave  would  not  be  able  to  persuade  anyone  "  that  the  bigamy 
was  due  to  distress  of  conscience  ;  which  was  as  much  as  to  say, 
that  "  Dr.  Martin  believed  what  it  was  impossible  to  believe,  had 
deceived  himself  and  been  willingly  led  astray."  He,  Luther,  how 
ever,  still  thought  that  the  Prince  had  been  serious  in  what  he  had 
said  "  secretly  in  Confession  "  ;  nevertheless  the  mere  suspicion 
might  suffice  to  "  render  the  advice  worthless,"  and  then  Philip 
would  stand  alone.  .  .  .  The  Landgrave,  moreover,  had  unkindly 
hinted  in  his  letter,  that,  "  we  theologians  take  those  who  please 
us."  "  Why  do  not  you  [Princes]  do  differently  ?  "  he  replies.  "  I, 
at  least,  trust  that  this  will  be  your  Serene  Highness's  experience 
with  your  beloved  sweetheart."  "  Pretty  women  are  to  be 
wedded  either  for  the  sake  of  the  children  which  spring  from 
this  merry  union,  or  to  prevent  fornication.  Apart  from  this 
I  do  not  see  of  what  use  beauty  is."  "  Marry  in  haste  and  repent 
at  leisure  "  was  the  result  of  following  our  passions,  according 
to  the  proverb.  Lastly,  Luther  does  not  hide  from  the  Land 
grave  that  his  carelessness  in  keeping  the  secret  had  brought  not 


only  the  Prince  but  "  the  whole  confession  "  into  disrepute, 
though  "  the  good  people  "  belonging  to  the  faith  were  really  in 
no  way  involved  in  what  Philip  had  done.  "  If  each  were  to  do 
what  pleased  him  and  throw  the  responsibility  on  the  pious  "  this 
would  be  neither  just  nor  reasonable. 

Such  are  the  reasons  by  which  he  seeks  to  dissuade  the  warrior- 
Prince  from  his  idea  of  publishing  the  fatal  Wittenberg  "  advice," 
to  impel  him  to  allow  the  marriage  to  "  remain  an  '  ambiguum,'  " 
and  "  not  openly  to  boast  that  he  had  lawfully  wedded  his  sweet 

He  also  gives  Philip  to  understand  that  he  will  get  a  taste  of  the 
real  Luther  should  he  not  obey  him,  or  should  he  expose  him  by 
publishing  the  "  advice,"  or  otherwise  in  writing.  He  says  :  "  If 
it  comes  to  writing  I  shall  know  how  to  extricate  myself  and 
leave  your  Serene  Highness  sticking  in  the  mud,  but  this  I  shall 
not  do  unless  I  can't  help  it."  The  Prince's  allusion  to  the 
Emperor's  anger  which  must  be  avoided,  did  not  affright  Luther 
in  the  least.  In  his  concluding  words  his  conviction  of  his 
mission  and  the  thought  of  the  anti-Evangelical  attitude  of  the 
Emperor  carry  him  away.  "  Were  this  menace  to  become 
earnest,  I  should  tweak  the  Emperor's  forelock,  confront  him  with 
his  practices  and  read  him  a  good  lecture  on  the  texts  :  '  Every 
man  is  a  liar  '  and  '  Put  not  your  trust  in  Princes.'  Was  he  not 
indeed  a  liar  and  a  false  man,  he  who  '  rages  against  God's 
own  truth,'  "  i.e.  opposes  Luther's  Evangel  ? 

Faced  by  such  unbounded  defiance  Philip  and  his  luckless 
bigamy,  in  spite  of  the  assurance  he  saw  fit  to  assume, 
seemed  indeed  in  a  bad  way.  One  can  feel  how  Luther 
despised  the  man.  In  spite  of  his  painful  embarrassment, 
he  is  aware  of  his  advantage.  He  indeed  stood  in  need  of 
the  Landgrave's  assistance  in  the  matter  of  the  new  Church 
system,  but  the  latter  was  entirely  dependent  on  Luther's 
help  in  his  disastrous  affair. 

Hence  Philip,  in  his  reply,  is  more  amiable,  though  he 
really  demolishes  Luther's  objections.  This  reply  he  sent  the 
day  after  receiving  Luther's  letter.1 

Certain  words  which  had  been  let  fall  at  Eisenach  had 
"  enraged  and  maddened  "  him  (Philip).  He  had,  however, 
good  "  scriptural  warrant  for  his  action,"  and  Luther  should 
not  forget  that,  "  what  we  did,  we  did  with  a  good  con 
science."  There  was  thus  no  need  for  the  Prince  to  bow 
before  the  Wittenbergers.  "  We  are  well  aware  that  you 
and  Philip  [Melanchthon]  cannot  defend  us  against  the 
secular  powers,  nor  have  we  ever  asked  this  of  you."  "  That 
Margaret  should  not  be  looked  upon  as  a  prostitute,  this  we 

1  On  July  27,  "  Philipps  Briefwechsel,"  1,  p.  385  ff. 


demand  and  insist  upon,  and  the  presence  of  pious  men 
[Melanchthon,  etc.]  at  the  wedding,  your  advice,  and  the 
marriage  contract,  will  prove  what  she  is."  "In  fine,  we 
will  allow  it  to  remain  a  secret  marriage  and  dispensation, 
and  will  give  a  reply  which  shall  conceal  the  matter,  and  be 
neither  yea  nor  nay,  as  long  as  we  can  and  may."  He 
insists,  however,  that,  "  if  we  cannot  prevent  it,"  then  we 
shall  bring  the  Wittenberg  advice  "  into  the  light  of  day." 

As  to  telling  a  downright  lie,  that  was  impossible,  because 
the  marriage  contract  was  in  the  hands  of  his  second  wife's 
friends,  who  would  at  once  take  him  to  task. 

"  It  was  not  our  intention  to  enter  upon  a  wordy  conflict, 
or  to  set  your  pen  to  work."  Luther  had  said,  that  he  would 
know  how  to  get  out  of  a  tight  corner,  but  what  business 
was  that  of  Philip's  :  "  We  care  not  whether  you  get  out  or 
in."  As  to  Luther's  malicious  allusion  to  his  love  for  the 
beautiful  Margaret,  he  says  :  "  Since  she  took  a  fancy  to  us, 
we  were  fonder  of  her  than  of  another,  but,  had  she  not 
liked  us,  then  we  should  have  taken  another."  Hence  he 
would  have  committed  bigamy  in  any  case.  He  waxes 
sarcastic  about  Luther's  remark,  that  the  world  would 
never  acknowledge  her  as  his  wife,  hinting  that  Luther's 
own  wife,  and  the  consorts  of  the  other  preachers  who  had 
formerly  been  monks  or  priests,  were  likewise  not  regarded 
by  the  imperial  lawyers  as  lawful  wedded  wives.  He  looked 
upon  Margaret  as  his  "  wife  according  to  God's  Word  and 
your  advice  ;  such  is  God's  will ;  the  world  may  regard  our 
wife,  yours  and  the  other  preachers'  as  it  pleases." 

Philip,  however,  was  diplomatic  enough  to  temper  all  this 
with  friendly  assurances.  "  We  esteem  you,"  he  says,  "  as 
a  very  eminent  theologian,  nor  shall  we  doubt  you,  so  long 
as  God  continues  to  give  you  His  Spirit,  which  Spirit  we 
still  recognise  in  you.  .  .  .  We  find  no  fault  with  you 
personally  and  consider  you  a  man  who  looks  to  God.  As  to 
our  other  thoughts,  they  are  just  thoughts,  and  come  and 
go  duty  free." 

These  "  duty-free  "  thoughts,  as  we  readily  gather  from 
the  letter,  concerned  the  Courts  of  Saxony,  whose  influence 
on  Luther  was  a  thorn  in  the  Landgrave's  flesh.  There  was 
the  "  haughty  old  Vashti  "  at  Dresden  (Duchess  Catherine), 
without  whom  the  "  matter  would  not  have  gone  so  far  "  ; 
then,  again,  there  was  Luther's  "  Lord,  the  Elector."  The 


"  cunning  of  the  children  of  the  world,"  which  the  Land 
grave  feared  would  infect  Luther,  had  its  head-quarters  at 
these  Courts.  But  if  it  came  to  the  point,  such  things  would 
be  "  disclosed  and  manifested  "  by  him,  the  Landgrave,  to 
the  Elector  and  "  many  other  princes  and  nobles,"  that 
"  you  would  have  to  excuse  us,  because  what  we  did  was 
not  done  merely  from  love,  but  for  conscience's  sake  and  in 
order  to  escape  eternal  damnation  ;  and  your  Lord,  the 
Elector,  will  have  to  admit  it  too  and  be  our  witness."  And 
in  still  stronger  language,  he  "  cites  "  the  Elector,  or,  rather, 
both  the  Elector  and  himself,  to  appear  before  Luther  :  "If 
this  be  not  sufficient,  then  demand  of  us,  and  of  your  master, 
that  we  tell  you  in  confession  such  things  as  will  satisfy  you 
concerning  us.  They  would,  however,  sound  ill,  so  help 
me  God,  and  we  hope  to  God  that  He  will  by  all  means  pre 
serve  us  from  such  in  future.  You  wish  to  learn  it,  then 
learn  it,  and  do  not  look  for  anything  good  but  for  the  worst, 
and  if  we  do  not  speak  the  truth,  may  God  strike  us  "  ;  "to 
prove  it  "  we  are  quite  ready.  Other  things  (see  below, 
xxiv.,  2)  make  it  probable,  that  the  Elector  is  here  accused 
as  being  Philip's  partner  in  some  very  serious  sin.  It  looks 
as  though  Philip's  intention  was  to  frighten  him  and  prevent 
his  proceeding  further  against  him.  Since  Luther  in  all 
probability  brought  the  letter  to  the  cognisance  of  the 
Elector,  the  step  was,  politically,  well  thought  out. 

Melanchthon's  Complaints. 

Melanchthon,  as  was  usual  with  him,  adopted  a  different 
tone  from  Luther's  in  the  matter.  He  was  very  sad,  and 
wrote  lengthy  letters  of  advice. 

As  early  as  June  15,  to  ease  his  mind,  he  sent  one  to  the 
Elector  Johann  Frederick,  containing  numerous  arguments 
against  polygamy,  but  leaving  open  the  possibility  of  secret 
bigamy.1  Friends  informed  the  Landgrave  that  anxiety 
about  the  bigamy  was  the  cause  of  Melanchthon's  serious 
illness.  Philip,  on  the  other  hand,  wrote,  that  it  was  the 
Saxon  Courts  which  were  worrying  him.2  Owing  to  his 
weakness  he  was  unable  to  take  part  in  the  negotiations  at 
Eisenach.  On  his  return  to  Wittenberg  he  declared  aloud 

1  Rockwell,  loc.  cit.,  p.  190.     Cp.  p.  61. 

2  Ibid.,  p.  192,  from  Philip's  letter  to  Luther,  on  July  18. 


that  he  and  Luther  had  been  outwitted  by  the  malice  of 
Philip  of  Hesse.  The  latter's  want  of  secrecy  seemed  to 
show  the  treasonable  character  of  the  intrigue.  To  Camer- 
arius  he  wrote  on  Aug.  24  :  "  We  are  disgraced  by  a  horrid 
business  concerning  which  I  must  say  nothing.  I  will  give 
you  the  details  in  due  time."1  On  Sep.  1,  he  admits  in  a 
letter  to  Veit  Dietrich  :  "  We  have  been  deceived,  under  a 
semblance  of  piety,  by  another  Jason,  Avho  protested  con 
scientious  motives  in  seeking  our  assistance,  and  who  even 
swore  that  this  expedient  was  essential  for  him."2  He  thus 
gives  his  friend  a  peep  into  the  Wittenberg  advice,  of  which 
he  was  the  draughtsman,  and  in  which  he,  unlike  Luther, 
could  see  nothing  that  came  under  the  Seal  of  Confession. 
The  name  of  the  deceitful  polygamist  Jason  he  borrows 
from  Terence,  011  whom  he  was  then  lecturing.  Since 
Luther,  about  the  same  time,  also  quotes  from  Terence  when 
speaking  at  table  about  Philip's  bigamy,  we  may  infer  that 
he  and  Melanchthon  had  exchanged  ideas  on  the  work  in 
question  (the  "  Adelphi  ").  Melanchthon  was  also  fond  of 
dubbing  the  Hessian  "  Alcibiades  "  on  account  of  his  dissem 
bling  and  cunning.3 

Most  remarkable,  however,  is  the  assertion  he  makes  in 
his  annoyance,  viz.  that  the  Landgrave  was  on  the  point  of 
losing  his  reason  :  "  This  is  the  beginning  of  his  insanity."4 
Luther,  too,  had  said  he  feared  he  was  going  crazy,  as  it  ran 
in  the  family.5  Philip's  father,  Landgrave  William  II,  had 
succumbed  to  melancholia  as  the  result  of  syphilis.  The 
latter's  brother,  William  I,  had  also  been  insane.  Philip's 
son,  William  IV,  sought  to  explain  the  family  trouble  by 
a  spell  cast  over  one  of  his  ancestors  by  the  "  courtisans  " 
at  Venice.6  In  1538,  previous  to  the  bigamy  scandal,  Henry 
of  Brunswick  had  written,  that  the  Landgrave,  owing  to  the 
French  disease,  was  able  to  sleep  but  little,  and  would  soon 
go  mad.7 

Melanchthon  became  very  sensitive  to  any  mention  of  the 
Hessian  bigamy.  At  table,  on  one  occasion  in  Aug.,  1540, 

1  Rockwell,  loc.  cit.,  p.  193.  "  Ibid.,  p.  194. 

3  "  Alcibiadea  natura  non  Achillea.^     "Corp.  ref.,"  3,  p.  1079.     Cp. 
4,  p.  116.    Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  194. 

4  "  Hcec  sunt  principia  furoris."    Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  143. 
Above,  p.  45. 

5  Ibid.,   on  the   same   day    (June    1-1,    1540),   Luther's   statement. 
Above,  p.  44. 

6  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  159,  n.  2  ;   p.  4,  n.  1.         7  Ibid.,  p.  102. 


Luther  spoke  of  love  ;  no  one  was  quite  devoid  of  love  because 
all  at  least  desired  enjoyment ;  one  loved  his  wife,  another 
his  children,  others,  like  Carlstadt,  loved  honour.  When 
Bugenhagen,  with  an  allusion  to  the  Landgrave,  quoted  the 
passage  from  Virgil's  "  Bucolica  "  :  "  Omtiia  vincit  amor  et 
nos  cedarnus  amori,"  Melanchthon  jumped  up  and  cried  : 
"  Pastor,  leave  out  that  passage."1 

Brooding  over  the  permission  given,  the  scholar  sought 
earnestly  for  grounds  of  excuse  for  the  bigamy.  "  I  looked 
well  into  it  beforehand,"  he  writes  in  1543,  "  I  also  told  the 
Doctor  [Luther]  to  weigh  well  whether  he  could  be  mixed  up 
in  the  affair.  There  are,  however,  circumstances  of  which 
the  women  [their  Ducal  opponents  at  Meissen]  are  not 
aware,  and  understand  not.  The  man  [the  Landgrave]  has 
many  strange  ideas  on  the  Deity.  He  also  confided  to  me 
things  which  I  have  told  no  one  but  Dr.  Martin  ;  on  account 
of  all  this  we  have  had  no  small  trouble."2  We  must  not 
press  the  contradiction  this  presents  to  Melanchthon's  other 
statement  concerning  the  Prince's  hypocrisy. 

Melanchthon's  earlier  letter  dated  Sep.  1,  1540,  Camer- 
arius  ventured  to  publish  in  the  collection  of  his  friend's 
letters  only  with  omissions  and  additions  which  altered  the 

Until  1904  this  letter,  like  Melanchthon's  other  letter  on 
Luther's  marriage  (vol.  ii.,  p.  176),  was  only  known  in  the 
amended  form.  W.  Rockwell  has  now  published  the  following 
suppressed  passages  from  the  original  in  the  Chigiana  at  Rome, 
according  to  the  manuscript  prepared  by  Nicholas  Mxiller  for  the 
new  edition  of  Melanchthon's  correspondence.  Here  Melanchthon 
speaks  out  plainly  without  being  conscious  of  any  "  Secret  of 
Confession,"  and  sees  little  objection  to  the  complete  publication 
by  the  Wittenbergers  of  their  advice.  "  I  blame  no  one  in  this 
matter  except  the  man  who  deceived  us  with  a  simulated  piety 
('  simulations  pietatis  fe/ellit ').  Nor  did  he  adhere  to  our  trusty 
counsel  [to  keep  the  matter  secret].  He  swore  that  the  remedy 
was  necessary.  Therefore,  that  the  universal  biblical  precept 
[concerning  the  unity  of  marriage]  :  '  They  shall  be  two  in  one 

1  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  175,  7-24  Aug.,  1540. 

2  To   the   Elector  Johann  Frederick,   March,    1543,   see  Rockwell 
p.  199  f.,  from  archives.     Rockwell  quotes  the  following  from  a  passage 
in  which  several  words  have  been  struck  out  :    "I  have  always  pre 
ferred  that  he  [...?]  should  deal  with  the  matter,  than  that  he 
should  altogether  [  .  .  .?]."     Was  the  meaning  :    He  preferred  that 
Luther  should  be  involved  in  such  an  affair  rather  than  that  he  [the 
Landgrave]  should  desert  their  party  altogether  ?     Other  utterances 
of  Melanchthon's  and  Luther's,  given  above,  would  favour  this  sense. 


flesh  '  might  be  preserved,  we  counselled  him,  secretly,  and 
without  giving  scandal  to  others,  to  make  use  of  the  remedy  in 
case  of  necessity.  I  will  not  be  judge  of  his  conscience,  for  he 
still  sticks  to  his  assertion  ;  but  the  scandal  he  might  well  have 
avoided  had  he  chosen.  Either  [what  follows  is  in  Greek]  love 
got  the  upper  hand,  or  here  is  the  beginning  and  foretaste  of 
that  insanity  which  runs  in  the  family.  Luther  blamed  him 
severely  and  he  thereupon  promised  to  keep  silence.  But  .  .  . 
[Melanchthon  has  crossed  out  the  next  sentence  :  As  time  goes 
on  he  changes  his  views]  whatever  he  may  do  in  the  matter,  we 
are  free  to  publish  our  decision  ('  edere  sententiam  nostram  ')  ;  for 
in  it  too  we  vindicated  the  law.  He  himself  told  me,  that 
formerly  he  had  thought  otherwise,  but  certain  people  had  con 
vinced  him  that  the  thing  was  quite  indifferent.  He  has  un 
learned  men  about  him  who  have  written  him  long  dissertations, 
and  who  are  not  a  little  angry  with  me  because  I  blamed  them 
to  their  teeth.  But  in  the  beginning  we  were  ignorant  of  their 
prejudices."  He  goes  on  to  speak  of  Philip  as  "  depraved  by  an 
Alcibiadean  nature  ('  Alcibiadea  natura  perditus  '),"  an  expression 
which  also  fell  under  the  red  pencil  of  the  first  editor,  Camerarius. x 

Literary  Feud  with  Duke  Henry  of  Brunswick. 

Prominent  amongst  those  who  censured  the  bigamy  was 
the  Landgrave's  violent  opponent  Duke  Henry  of  Brunswick  - 
Wolfenbiittel.  The  Duke,  a  leader  of  the  Catholic 
Alliance  formed  to  resist  the  Schmalkalden  Leaguers  in 
North  Germany,  published  in  the  early  'forties  several 
controversial  works  against  Philip  of  Hesse.  This  brisk  and 
active  opponent,  whose  own  character  was,  however,  by  no 
means  unblemished,  seems  to  have  had  a  hand  in  the  attacks 
of  other  penmen  upon  the  Landgrave.  Little  by  little  he 
secured  fairly  accurate  accounts  of  the  proceedings  in  Hesse 
and  at  Wittenberg,  and,  as  early  as  July  22,  1540,  made  a 
general  and  public  reference  to  what  had  taken  place.2 

In  a  tract  published  on  Nov.  3,  he  said  quite  openly  that 
the  Landgrave  had  "  two  wives  at  the  same  time,  and  had 
thus  rendered  himself  liable  to  the  penalties  against  double 
marriage."  The  Elector  of  Saxony  had,  however,  permitted 
"  his  biblical  experts  at  the  University  of  Wittenberg  to 
assist  in  dealing  with  these  nice  affairs,"  nay,  had  himself 
concurred  in  the  bigamy.3 

1  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  194.  Text  of  Camerarius  in  "  Corp.  ref.,"  3, 
p.  1077  seq.  2  Ibid.,  p.  103. 

3  "  Ergriindete  .  .  .  Duplica  .  .  .  wider  des  Churfiirsten  von 
Sachsen  Abdruck,"  etc.  The  work  is  directed  primarily  against  the 
Elector  Johann  Frederick,  the  "  drunken  Nabal  of  Saxony,"  as 
the  author  terms  him. 


In  consequence  of  these  and  other  charges  contained  in 
the  Duke's  screed,  Luther  wrote  the  violent  libel  entitled 
"  Wider  Hans  Worst,"  of  which  the  still  existing  manu 
script  shows  in  what  haste  and  frame  of  mind  the  work  was 
dashed  off.  All  his  exasperation  at  the  events  connected 
with  the  bigamy  now  become  public  boils  up  in  his  attack 
on  the  "  Bloodhound,  and  incendiary  Harry  "  of  Brunswick, 
and  the  "  clerical  devil's  whores  in  the  Popish  robbers' 
cave."1  Of  Henry's  charge  he  speaks  in  a  way  which  is 
almost  more  than  a  mere  concealing  of  the  bigamy.2  He 
adds  :  "  The  very  name  of  Harry  stinks  like  devil's  ordure 
freshly  dropped  in  Germany.  Did  he  perchance  desire  that 
not  he  alone  should  stink  so  horribly  in  the  nostrils  of 
others,  but  that  he  should  make  other  honourable  princes 
to  stink  also  ?  "  He  was  a  renegade  and  a  coward,  who  did 
everything  like  an  assassin.  "  He  ought  to  be  set  up  like  a 
eunuch,  dressed  in  cap  and  bells,  with  a  feather-brush  in  his 
hand  to  guard  the  women  and  that  part  on  account  of  which 
they  are  called  women,  as  the  rude  Germans  say."  "  Assas 
sin-adultery,  assassin-arson  indeed  became  this  '  wild  cat,'  ' 

Even  before  this  work  was  finished,  in  February,  1541,  a 
pseudonymous  attack  upon  the  Landgrave  appeared  which 
"  horrified  Cruciger,"3  who  was  with  Luther  at  Wittenberg. 
The  Landgrave  is  here  upbraided  with  the  bigamy,  the 
reproaches  culminating  in  the  following  :  "I  cannot  but 
believe  that  the  devil  resides  in  your  Serene  Highness,  and 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  262,  p.  58. 

2  Ibid.,  p.   77  :    "  Concerning  the  Landgrave,  whom  he  abuses  as 
bigamous,  an  Anabaptist  and  even  as  having  submitted  to  re-baptism, 
though  in  such  ambiguous  terms  as  to  suit  a  cardinal  or  a  weather-cock, 
so  that  were  his  proofs  asked  for  he  could  twist  his  tongue  round  and 
say,  that  he  was  not  sure  it  was  so,  but  merely  suspected  it  ...  of 
this  I  will  not  now  say  much.    The  Landgrave  is  man  enough  and  has 
learned  men  about  him.     I  know  of  one  Landgravine  in  Hesse  [one  only 
bore  the  title],  who  is  and  is  to  be  styled  wife  and  mother  in  Hesse,  and, 
in  any  case,  no  other  will  be  able  to  bear  young  Princes  and  suckle 
them  ;    I  refer  to  the  Duchess,  daughter  of  Duke  George  of  Saxony. 
And  if  her  Prince  has  strayed,  that  was  owing  to  your  bad  example, 
which  has  brought  things  to  such  a  pass,  that  the  very  peasants  do  not 
look  upon  it  as  sin,  and  have  made  it  difficult  for  us   to  maintain 
matrimony  in  honour  and  esteem,  nay,  to  re-establish  it.     From  the 
very  beginning  none   has   abused  matrimony  more   grievously   than 
Harry  of  Wolff enbiittel,  the  holy,  sober  man."    That  is  all  Luther  says 
of  the  Hessian  bigamy. 

3  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  107,  on  the  writing  of  "  Justinus  Warsager  " 
against  the  Landgrave,  with  a  reference  to  "  Corp.  ref.,"  4,  p.  112. 


that  the  Miinster  habit  has  infected  your  S.H.,  so  that  your 
S.H.  thinks  that  you  may  take  as  many  wives  as  you  please, 
even  as  the  King  of  Miinster  did." 

An  anonymous  reply  to  this  screed  penned  by  the  pastor 
of  Mclsungen,  Johann  Lening,  is  the  first  attempt  at  a 
public  justification  of  Philip's  bigamy.  The  author  only 
disclaims  the  charge  that  the  Landgrave  had  intended  to 
"  introduce  a  new  '  ius.'  5?1 

Henry  of  Brunswick  replied  to  "  Hans  Worst  "  and  to 
this  vindication  of  the  bigamy  in  his  "  Quadruplicce  "  of 
May  31,  1541.  He  said  there  of  Luther's  "  Hans  Worst  "  : 
"  That  we  should  have  roused  Luther,  the  arch-knave,  arch- 
heretic,  desperate  scoundrel  and  godless  arch-miscreant,  to 
put  forth  his  impious,  false,  unchristian,  lousy  and  rascally 
work  is  due  to  the  scamp  [on  the  throne]  of  Saxony."  "  We 
have  told  the  truth  so  plainly  to  his  Munsterite  brother,  the 
Landgrave,  concerning  his  bigamy,  that  he  has  been  unable 
to  deny  it,  but  admits  it,  only  that  he  considers  that  he  did 
not  act  dishonourably,  but  rightly  and  in  a  Christian  fashion, 
which,  however,  is  a  lie  and  utterly  untrue."  In  some  of  his 
allegations  then  and  later,  such  as  that  the  Landgrave  was 
thinking  of  taking  a  third  wife  "  in  addition  to  his  numerous 
concubines,"  and  that  he  had  submitted  to  re-baptism,  the 
princely  knight-errant  was  going  too  far.  A  reply  and 
defence  of  the  Landgrave,  published  in  1544,  asserts  with 
unconscious  humour  that  the  Landgrave  knew  how  to  take 
seriously  "  to  heart  what  God  had  commanded  concerning 
marriage  .  .  .  and  also  the  demands  of  conjugal  fidelity 
and  love." 

Johann  Lening,  pastor  of  Melsungen,  formerly  a  Car 
thusian  in  the  monastery  of  Eppenberg,  had  been  the  most 
zealous  promoter  of  the  bigamy.  He  was  also  very  active 
in  rendering  literary  service  in  its  defence.  The  string  of 
Bible  proofs  alleged  by  Philip  in  his  letter  to  Luther  of 
July  18  (above,  p.  55  f.)  can  undoubtedly  be  traced  to  his 
inspiration.  In  October,  1541,  he  was  at  Augsburg  with 
Gereon  Sailer, 2  the  physician  so  skilled  in  the  treatment  of 
syphilis  ;  a  little  later  Veit  Dietrich  informed  Melanchthoii 
of  his  venereal  trouble.3  He  was  much  disliked  by  the 
Saxons  and  the  Wittenbergers  on  account  of  his  defence  of 

1  Cp.  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  108. 

2  "  Philipps  Briefwechsel,"  3,  1891,  p.  186,  n.  1. 

3  On  Dec.  11,  1541.    Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  117,  n.  1. 

IV. — F 


his  master.  Chancellor  Briick  speaks  of  him  as  a  "  violent, 
bitter  man  "  ;  Luther  calls  him  the  "  Melsingen  nebulo  " 
and  the  "  monstrum  Carthusianum  "  ;x  Frederick  Myconius 
speaks  of  the  "  lenones  Leningi  "  and  fears  he  will  catch  the 
"  Dionysiorum  vesania." 

Such  was  the  author  of  the  "  Dialogue  of  Huldericus 
Neobulus,"  which  has  become  famous  in  the  history  of  the 
Hessian  Bigamy  ;  it  appeared  in  1541,  towards  the  end  of 
summer,  being  printed  at  Marburg  at  Philip's  expense. 

The  book  was  to  answer  in  the  affirmative  the  question 
contained  in  the  sub-title  :  "  Whether  it  be  in  accordance 
with  or  contrary  to  the  Divine,  natural,  Imperial  and 
ecclesiastical  law,  to  have  simultaneously  more  than  one 
wife."  The  author,  however,  clothed  his  affirmation  in 
so  pedantic  and  involved  a  form  as  to  make  it  unintelligible 
to  the  uninitiate  so  that  Philip  could  say  that,  "  it  would  be 
a  temptation  to  nobody  to  follow  his  example,"  and  that  it 
tended  rather  to  dissuade  from  bigamy  than  to  induce 
people  to  commit  it.2 

This  work  was  very  distasteful  to  the  Courts  of  Saxony, 
and  Luther  soon  made  up  his  mind  to  write  against  it. 

He  wrote  on  Jan.  10,  1542,  to  Justus  Menius,  who  had 
sent  him  a  reply  of  his  own,  intended  for  the  press  :  "  Your 
book  will  go  to  the  printers,  but  mine  is  already  waiting 
publication  ;  your  turn  will  come  next.  .  .  .  How  this  man 
disgusts  me  with  the  insipid,  foolish  and  worthless  argu 
ments  he  excretes."  To  this  Pandora  all  the  Hessian  gods 
must  have  contributed.  "  Bucer  smells  bad  enough  already 
on  account  of  the  Ratisbon  dealings.  .  .  .May  Christ  keep 
us  well  disposed  towards  Him  and  steadfast  in  His  Holy 
Word.  Amen."3  From  what  Luther  says  he  was  not 
incensed  at  the  Dialogue  of  Neobulus  so  much  on  account 
of  its  favouring  polygamy  itself,  but  because,  not  content 
with  allowing  bigamy  conditionally,  and  before  the  tribunal 

1  To  Justus  Menius,  Jan.  10,  1542,  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  5,  p.  426. 
Cp.  above,   p.  25  f.,  for  Luther's  opinion  that  Lening  had  been  the 
first  to  suggest  the  plan  of  the  bigamy  to  the  Landgrave.     For  other 
points  in  the  text,  see  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  117  f.    Koldewey  remarks  of 
Lening,  that  "  his  wretched  servility  and  his  own  lax  morals  had  made 
him  the  advocate  of  the  Landgrave's  carnal  lusts."     ("  Theol.  Studien 
und  Kritiken,"  57,  1884,  p.  560.) 

2  The   Landgrave  to   Sailer,   Aug.    27,    1541,   in   "  Philipps   Brief- 
wechsel,"  3,  p.  148,  and  to  Melanchthon. 

3  See  above,  note  1. 


of  conscience,  it  sought  also  to  erect  it  into  a  public  law. 
When,  however,  both  Elector  and  Landgrave1  begged  him 
to  refrain  from  publishing  his  reply,  he  agreed  and  stopped 
the  printers,  though  only  after  a  part  of  it  had  already  left 
the  press.2 

His  opinion  concerning  the  permissibility  of  bigamy  in 
certain  cases  he  never  changed  in  spite  of  the  opposition  it 
met  with.  But,  in  Luther's  life,  hardly  an  instance  can  be 
cited  of  his  having  shrunk  back  when  attacked.  Rarely  if 
ever  did  his  defiance — which  some  admire — prove  more 
momentous  than  on  this  occasion.  An  upright  man  is  not 
unwilling  to  allow  that  he  may  have  been  mistaken  in  a 
given  instance,  and,  when  better  informed,  to  retract. 
Luther,  too,  might  well  have  appealed  to  the  shortness  of 
the  time  allowed  him  for  the  consideration  of  the  counsel  he 
had  given  at  Wittenberg.  Without  a  doubt  his  hand  had 
been  forced.  Further,  it  might  have  been  alleged  in  excuse 
for  his  act,  that  misapprehension  of  the  Bible  story  of  the 
patriarchs  had  dragged  him  to  consequences  which  he  had 
not  foreseen.  It  would  have  been  necessary  for  him  to 
revise  completely  his  Old-Testament  exegesis  on  this  point, 
and  to  free  it  from  the  influence  of  his  disregard  of  ecclesi 
astical  tradition  and  the  existing  limitations  on  matrimony. 
In  place  of  this,  consideration  for  the  exalted  rank  of  his 
petitioners  induced  him  to  yield  to  the  plausible  reasons 
brought  forward  by  a  smooth-tongued  agent  and  to  remain 

The  tract  of  Menius,  on  the  same  political  grounds,  was 
likewise  either  not  published  at  all  or  withdrawn  later.  The 
truth  was,  that  it  was  desirable  that  the  Hessian  affair 
should  come  under  discussion  as  little  as  possible,  so  that  no 
grounds  should  be  given  "  to  increase  the  gossip,"  as  Luther 
put  it  in  1542  ;  "I  would  rather  it  were  left  to  settle  as  it 
began,  than  that  the  filth  should  be  stirred  up  under  the 
noses  of  the  whole  world."3 

1  In  the  letter  to  Melanchthon,  quoted  p.  66,  note  2,  Philip  says,  that 
if  Luther's  work  had  not  yet  appeared  Melanchthon  was  to  explain  to 
him  that  the  Dialogue  of  Neobulus  tended  rather  to  dissuade  from, 
than  to  permit  bigamy,  "  so  that  he  might  forbear  from  such  [reply], 
or  so  moderate   it   that  it  may  not   injure   us   or  what  he  himself 
previously  sanctioned  and  wrote  [i.e.  in  the  Wittenberg  testimony]." 

2  Printed  in  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  65,  p.  206  ff. 

3  Luther  to  the  Electoral  Chancellor,  Briick,  "  shortly  after  Jan.  10," 
"  Briefe,"  6,  p.  296,  where  he  also  approvingly  notes  that  Menius  had 


The  work  of  Neobulus  caused  much  heart-burning  among 
the  Swiss  reformers  ;  of  this  we  hear  from  Bullinger,  who 
also,  in  his  Commentary  on  Matthew,  in  1542,  expressed 
himself  strongly  against  the  tract.1  His  successor,  Rudolf 
Gualther,  Zwingli's  son-in-law,  wrote  that  it  was  shocking 
that  a  Christian  Prince  should  have  been  guilty  of  such  a 
thing  and  that  theologians  should  have  been  found  to 
father,  advocate  and  defend  it.2 

In  time,  however,  less  was  heard  of  the  matter  and  the 
rumours  died  down.  A  peace  was  even  patched  up  between 
the  Landgrave  and  the  Emperor,  chiefly  because  the 
Elector  of  Saxony  was  against  the  Schmalkalden  League 
being  involved  in  the  Hessian  affair.  Without  admitting 
the  reality  of  the  bigamy,  and  without  even  mentioning  it, 
Philip  concluded  with  Charles  V  a  treaty  which  secured  for 
him  safety.  Therein  he  made  to  the  Emperor  political 
concessions  of  such  importance3  as  to  arouse  great  dis 
content  and  grave  suspicions  in  the  ranks  of  the  Evangelicals. 
At  a  time  when  the  German  Protestants  were  on  the  point 
of  appealing  to  France  for  assistance  against  Charles  V,  he 
promised  to  do  his  best  to  hinder  the  French  and  to  support 
the  Imperial  interests.  In  the  matter  of  the  Emperor's  feud 
with  Julich,  he  pledged  himself  to  neutrality,  thus  ensuring 
the  Emperor's  success.  After  receiving  the  Imperial  pardon 
on  Jan.  24,  1541,  his  complete  reconciliation  was  guaranteed 
by  the  secret  compact  of  Ratisbon  on  June  13  of  the  same 
year.  He  had  every  reason  to  be  content,  and  as  the 
editor  of  Philip's  correspondence  with  Bucer  writes,4  what 
better  could  even  the  Emperor  desire  ?  The  great  danger 
which  threatened  was  a  league  of  the  German  Protestants 
with  France.  And  now  the  Prince,  Avho  alone  was  able  to 
bring  this  about,  withdrew  from  the  opposition  party,  laid 
his  cards  on  the  table,  left  the  road  open  to  Guelders,  offered 

not  written  "  ''contra  necessitatem  et  casualem  dispensationem  individual 
personce,'  of  which  we,  as  confessors,  treated  "  ;  he  only  "  inveighed 
'  contra  legem  et  exemplum  publicum  polygamice,'  which  we  also  do." 
Still,  he  finds  that  Menius  "  excuses  the  old  patriarchs  too  feebly." 

1  Cp.  his  outburst  against  "  those  who  teach  polygamy  "  in  his  "  In 
evangelium  s.  Mt.  Commentaria,"  Tiguri,  1543,  p.  179. 

2  To  Oswald  Myconius,  Sep.  13,  1540,  in  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  325  : 
"  pudet  imprimis  inter  theologos  talium  authorcs,   tutores  et  patronos 
posse  reperiri." 

3  Cp.  Janssen,   "  Hist,  of  the  German  People  "  (Engl.   Trans.),   6, 
p.  149  f.  ;  and  Rockwell,  ibid.,  pp.  130,  132. 

4  Max  Lenz,  in  "  Philipps  Brief wechsel,"  1,  p.  497. 


his  powerful  support  both  within  and  outside  of  the  Empire, 
and,  in  return,  asked  for  nothing  but  the  Emperor's  favour. 
The  Landgrave's  princely  allies  in  the  faith  were  pained  to  see 
him  forsake  "  the  opposition  [to  the  Emperor].  For  their 
success  the  political  situation  was  far  more  promising  than 
in  the  preceding  winter.  An  alliance  with  France  offered  [the 
Protestants]  a  much  greater  prospect  of  success  than  one 
with  England,  for  Frangois  I  was  far  more  opposed  to  the 
Emperor  than  was  Henry  VIII.  ...  Of  the  German 
Princes,  William  of  Jiilich  had  already  pledged  himself 
absolutely  to  the  French  King."1 

Philip  was  even  secretly  set  on  obtaining  the  Pope's 
sanction  to  the  bigamy.  Through  Georg  von  Carlowitz  and 
Julius  Pflug  he  sought  to  enter  into  negotiations  with  Rome  ; 
they  were  not  to  grudge  an  outlay  of  from  3000  to  4000 
gulden  as  an  "  offering."2  As  early  as  the  end  of  1541 
Chancellor  Feige  received  definite  instructions  in  the  matter. 

The  Hessian  Court  had,  however,  in  the  meantime  been 
informed,  that  Cardinal  Contarini  had  given  it  to  be  under 
stood  that  "  no  advice  or  assistance  need  be  looked  for  from 
the  Pope."3 

Landgravine  Christina  died  in  1549,  and,  after  her  death, 
the  unfortunate  marriage  was  gradually  buried  in  oblivion. 
— But  did  Landgrave  Philip,  after  the  conclusion  of  the 
second  marriage,  cease  from  immoral  intercourse  with 
women  as  he  had  so  solemnly  promised  Luther  he  would  ? 

In  the  Protestant  periodical,  "Die  christliche  Welt,"4  atten 
tion  was  drawn  to  a  Repertory  of  the  archives  of  Philip  of  Hesse, 
published  in  1904, 6  in  which  a  document  is  mentioned  which 
would  seem  to  show  that  Philip  was  unfaithful  even  subsequent  to 
his  marriage  with  Margaret.  The  all  too  brief  description  of  the 
document  is  as  follows  :  "  Suit  of  Johann  Meckbach  against 
Landgrave  Philip  on  behalf  of  Lady  Margaret  ;  the  Landgrave's 
infidelity  ;  Margaret's  demand  that  her  marriage  be  made 
public."  "  This  sounds  suspicious,"  remarks  W.  Kohler,  "  we 
have  always  taken  it  for  granted  that  the  bigamy  was  moral  only 
in  so  far  as  the  Landgrave  Philip  refrained  from  conjugal  infidelity 

1  Max  Lenz,  in  "  Philipps  Brief  wechsel,"  1,  p.  499. 
"  Briefwechsel,"  ibid.,  p.  368  f. 

3  Feige  to  the  Landgrave,  July  19,   1541,  published  by  Rockwell, 
ibid.,  p.  331  ;    cp.  p.  100  f. 

4  No.  35,  August  30,  1906. 

8  "  Das  politische  Archiv  des  Landgrafen  Philipp  von  Hessen  ; 
Repertorium  des  landgrafl.  polit.  Archivs,"  Bd.  1.  (Publikationen  aus 
den  Kgl.  preuss.  Staatsarchiven,  Bd.  78).  Year  1556,  No.  27. 


after  its  conclusion,  and  now  we  are  confronted  with  this  charge. 
Is  it  founded  ?  "  Concerning  this  new  document  N.  Paulus 
remarks  :  "In  order  to  be  able  properly  to  appreciate  its  im 
portance,  we  should  have  to  know  more  of  the  suit.  At  any  rate 
Margaret  would  not  have  caused  representations  to  be  made  to 
her  '  husband  '  concerning  his  infidelity  without  very  weighty 

In  the  Landgrave's  family  great  dissatisfaction  continued  to 
be  felt  with  Luther.  When,  in  1575,  Philip's  son  and  successor, 
Landgrave  William  IV,  was  entertaining  Palsgravine  Elisabeth, 
a  zealous  friend  of  Lutheranism,  he  spoke  to  her  about  Luther, 
as  she  relates  in  a  letter.2  "He  called  Dr.  Luther  a  rascal, 
because  he  had  persuaded  his  father  to  take  two  wives,  and 
generally  made  out  Dr.  Luther  to  be  very  wicked.  Whereat  I 
said  that  it  could  not  be  true  that  Luther  had  done  such  a  thing." 
— So  completely  had  the  fact  become  shrouded  in  obscurity. 
William,  however,  fetched  her  the  original  of  the  Wittenberg 
testimony.  Although  she  was  unwilling  to  look  at  it  lest  her 
reverence  for  Luther  should  suffer,  yet  she  was  forced  to  hear  it. 
In  her  own  words  :  "  He  locked  me  in  the  room  and  there  I  had 
to  remain  ;  he  gave  it  me  to  read,  and  my  husband  [the  Palsgrave 
Johann  Casimir]  who  was  also  with  me,  and  likewise  a  Zwinglian 
Doctor  both  abused  Dr.  Luther  loudly  and  said  we  simply  looked 
upon  him  as  an  idol  and  that  he  was  our  god.  The  Landgrave 
brought  out  the  document  and  made  the  Doctor  read  it  aloud 
so  that  I  might  hear  it  ;  but  I  refused  to  listen  to  it  and  thought 
of  something  else  ;  seeing  I  refused  to  listen  the  Landgrave  gave 
me  a  frightful  scolding,  but  afterwards  he  was  sorry  and  craved 

There  is  no  doubt  that  William's  dislike  for  Luther,  here 
displayed,  played  a  part  in  his  refusal  to  accept  the  formula  of 
Concord  in  1580. 3 

So  meagre  were  the  proofs  made  public  of  Luther's  share 
in  the  step  which  Philip  of  Hesse  had  taken,  that,  even  in 
Hesse,  the  Giessen  professor  Michael  Siricius  was  able  to 
declare  in  a  writing  of  1679,  entitled  "  Uxor  una"  that 
Luther's  supposed  memorandum  was  an  invention.4 

Of  the  Wittenberg  "  advice  "  only  one,  fairly  long,  but 
quite  apocryphal  version,  was  put  in  circulation  during 

1  Koln.  Volksztng.,  1906,  No.  758. 

2  K.   v.   Weber,   "  Anna  Churfiirstin  zu  Sachsen,"   Leipzig,    1865, 
p.  401  f.    Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  132  f. 

3  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.   133.     William  IV  wrote  a  curious  letter  to 
Coelestin  on  this  "  great  book  of  discord  and  on  the  '  dilaceratio  eccle- 
siarum  '  "  ;  see  G.   Th.   Strobel,   "  Beitrage  zur  Literatur,    besonders 
des  16.  Jahrh.,"  2,  1786,  p.  162. 

4  "  Theologos    Witenbergenses   et    in   specie   Megalandrum   nostrum 
Lutherum    consilio    suo   id  factum   suasisse   vel   approbasse,  manifests 
falsum  est."      Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  134. 


Melanchthon's  lifetime  ;  it  appeared  in  the  work  of  Erasmus 
Sarcerius,  "  On  the  holy  married  state,"  of  which  the 
Preface  is  dated  in  1553.  It  is  so  worded  as  to  leave  the 
reader  under  the  impression  that  its  authors  had  refused 
outright  to  give  their  consent.  Out  of  caution,  moreover, 
neither  the  authors  nor  the  addressee  are  named.1  In  this 
version,  supposed  to  be  Luther's  actual  text,  it  was  em 
bodied,  in  1661,  in  the  Altenburg  edition  of  his  works,  then 
in  the  Leipzig  reprint  of  the  same  (1729  ff.)  and  again  in 
Walch's  edition  (Halle,  1740  ff.).2  Yet  Lorenz  Beger,  in 
his  work  "  Daphnceus  Arcuarius  "  (1679),  had  supplied  the 
real  text,  together  with  Bucer's  instructions  and  the  marriage 
contract,  from  "  a  prominent  Imperial  Chancery."  The 
importance  of  these  documents  was  first  perceived  in  France. 
Bossuet  used  them  in  his  "  Histoire  des  variations  des 
eglises  protestantes  "  (1688). 3  He  was  also  aware  that 
Landgrave  Ernest,  of  Hesse-Rheinfels-Rotenburg,  who 
returned  to  the  Catholic  Church  in  1652,  had  supplied  copies 
of  the  three  documents  (to  Elector  Carl  Ludwig  of  the 
Palatine).  In  more  recent  times  Max  Lenz's  publication  of 
the  Hessian  archives  has  verified  these  documents  and 
supplied  a  wealth  of  other  material  which  we  have  duly 
utilised  in  the  above. 

Opinions  Old  and  New  Regarding  the  Bigamy. 

As  more  light  began  to  be  thrown  on  the  history  of  the 
bigamy,  Protestant  historians,  even  apart  from  those  already 
mentioned,  were  not  slow  in  expressing  their  strong  con 
demnation,  as  indeed  was  only  to  be  expected. 

Julius  Boehmer,  in  outspoken  language,  points  to  "  the 
unfortunate  fact  "  that  "  Luther,  in  his  old  age,  became  weak, 
nay,  flabby  in  his  moral  judgments  and  allowed  himself  to  be 
guided  by  political  and  diplomatic  considerations,  and  not  by 
truth  alone  and  an  uncorruptible  conscience."* 

Walter  Kohler,  in  the  "  Historische  Zeitschrift,"  has  thrown  a 
strong  light  on  the  person  and  the  motives  of  the  Landgrave.5 
Whilst  admitting  that  Philip  may  have  suffered  from  remorse 

1  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  131. 

2  Altenburg  ed.,  8,  p.  977  ;   Leipzig  ed.,  22,  p.  496  ;  Walch's  ed.,  10, 
p.   886.      (Cp.  Walch,  102,  p.   748.)      See  De  Wette  in  his  edition  of 
Luther's  Letters,  5,  p.  236,  and  Enders-Kawerau,  in  "  Briefwechsel," 
)2,  p.  319.  3  Page  221. 

4  "  Luthers  Werke  fur  das  deutsche  Volk,"  1907,  Introd.,  p.  xvi. 

5  Bd.  94,  1905,  p.  385  ff. 


of  conscience  and  depression,  he  shows  how  these  were  "  in  great 
part  due  to  his  physical  deterioration,  his  unrestrained  excesses 
having  brought  on  him  syphilis  in  its  worst  form  ;  sores  broke 
out  on  his  hands  and  he  suffered  from  trouble  with  the  throat." 
His  resolution  to  commit  bigamy  also  sprang  from  the  same 
source,  "  not  from  a  sudden  realisation  of  the  wickedness  of  his 
life,  but  simply  from  the  sense  of  his  physical  bankruptcy." 
Besides,  as  Kohler  points  out,  the  Landgrave's  intention  was 
not  at  first  to  marry  Margaret,  but  rather  to  maintain  her  as 
a  kept  woman  and  so  render  excesses  unnecessary.  Philip,  how 
ever,  was  unable  to  get  her  as  a  concubine,  owing  to  the  opposition 
of  her  mother,  who  demanded  for  her  daughter  the  rank  of 
princess  and  wife.  Hence  the  idea  of  a  bigamy. 

The  following  indignant  reference  of  Onno  Klopp's  must  be 
included  amongst  the  Protestant  statements,  since  it  was  written 
some  time  before  the  eminent  historian  joined  the  Catholic 
Church  :  "  The  revolting  story  has  left  a  blot  on  the  memory  of 
Luther  and  Melanchthon  which  oceans  of  sophisms  will  not  avail 
to  wash  away.  This,  more  than  any  other  deed,  brought  to  light 
both  the  waywardness  of  the  new  Church  and  its  entire  depend 
ence  on  the  favour  of  Princes."1 

As  for  the  concealment,  and  the  secrecy  in  which  the  sanction 
of  the  bigamy  was  shrouded,  G.  Ellinger  considers,  that  the 
decision  of  Luther  and  his  friends  "  became  absolutely  immoral 
only  through  the  concealment  enjoined  by  the  reformers."  In 
consequence  of  the  matter  being  made  a  secret  of  conscience, 
"  the  second  wife  would  seem  to  the  world  a  concubine  "  ;  hence 
not  only  the  first  wife,  but  also  the  second  would  suffer  degrada 
tion.  The  second  wife's  relatives  had  given  their  consent  "  only 
on  the  hypothesis  of  a  real  marriage  "  ;  this  too  was  what 
Philip  intended  ;  yet  Luther  wished  him  to  tell  the  Emperor  that 
she  was  a  mere  concubine  ;  the  Landgrave,  however,  refused  to 
break  the  word  he  had  given,  and  "  repudiated  Luther's 
suggestion  that  he  should  tell  a  lie."2 

Another  Protestant,  the  historian  Paul  Tschackert,  has 
recently  characterised  the  Hessian  affair  as  "  a  dirty  story."  "  It 
is,  and  must  remain,"  he  says,  "  a  shameful  blot  on  the  German 
Reformation  and  the  life  of  our  reformers.  We  do  not  wish  to 
gloss  it  over,  still  less  to  excuse  it."3 

Yet,  notably  in  modern  theological  literature,  some 
Protestants  have  seemed  anxious  to  palliate  the  affair.  An 
attempt  is  made  to  place  the  Wittenberg  advice  and  Luther's 
subsequent  conduct  in  a  more  favourable  light  by  empha 
sising  more  than  heretofore  the  secrecy  of  the  advice  given, 

1   "  Studien  iiber  Katholizismus,   Protestantismus  und  Gewissens- 
freiheit  in  Deutschland,"  Schaffhausen,  1857  (anonvmous),  p.  104. 
"  Phil.  Melanchthon,"  pp.  378,  382. 

3  "  Die  Entstehung  der  lutherischen  und  reformierten  Kirchen- 
lehre,"  Gottingen,  1910,  p.  271. 


which  Luther  did  not  consider  himself  justified  in  revealing 
under  any  circumstances,  and  the  publication  of  which  the 
Landgrave  was  unjustly  demanding.  It  is  also  urged,  that 
the  ecclesiastical  influence  of  the  Middle  Ages  played  its 
part  in  Luther's  sanction  of  the  bigamy.  One  author  even 
writes  :  "  the  determining  factor  may  have  been,"  that  "  at 
the  critical  moment  the  reformer  made  way  for  the  priest 
and  confessor  "  ;  else\vhere  the  same  author  says  :  "  Thus 
the  Reformation  begins  with  a  mediaeval  scene."  Another 
Protestant  theologian  thinks  that  "  the  tendency,  taken 
over  from  the  Catholic  Church,"  to  treat  the  marriage  pro 
hibitions  as  aspects  of  the  natural  law  was  really  respon 
sible  ;  in  Luther's  evangelical  morality  "  there  was  a  good 
lump  of  Romish  morality,  worthless  quartz  mingled  with 
good  metal  "  ;  "  Catholic  scruples  "  had  dimmed  Luther's 
judgment  in  the  matter  of  polygamy  ;  to  us  the  idea  of 
bigamy  appears  "  simply  monstrous,"  "  but  this  is  a  result 
of  age-long  habits  ";  in  the  16th  century  people  thought 
"  very  differently." 

In  the  face  of  the  detailed  quotations  from  actual  sources 
already  given  in  the  present  chapter,  all  such  opinions — not 
merely  Luther's  own  appeal  to  a  "  secret  of  confession," 
invented  by  himself — are  seen  to  be  utterly  unhistorical. 
Particularly  so  is  the  reference  to  the  Catholic  Middle  Ages. 
It  was  just  the  Middle  Ages,  and  the  ecclesiastical  tradition 
of  earlier  times,  which  excited  among  Luther's  contem 
poraries,  even  those  of  his  own  party,  such  opposition  to  the 
bigamy  wherever  news  of  the  same  penetrated  in  any  shape 
or  form.1 

In  the  following  we  shall  quote  a  few  opinions  of 
16th-century  Protestants  not  yet  mentioned.  With 
the  historian  their  unanimous  verdict  must  weigh  more 
heavily  in  the  scale  than  modern  theories,  which,  other 
considerations  apart,  labour  under  the  disadvantage  of 
having  been  brought  forward  long  after  the  event  and  the 
expressions  of  opinion  which  accompanied  it,  to  bolster  up 
views  commonly  held  to-day. 2 

1  That  the  death  penalty  for  bigamy  also  dated  from  the  Middle 
Ages  need  hardly  be  pointed  out. 

2  For  the  proofs  which  follow  we  may  refer  to  the  selection  made 
by  N.  Paulus  ("  Hist.-pol.  Bl.,"   147,  1911,  p.  503  ff.,  561  ff.)  in  the 
article    "  Die    hessische   Doppelehe    im    Urteile    der   protest.    Zeitge- 


The  bigamy  was  so  strongly  opposed  to  public  opinion  and 
thus  presumably  to  the  tradition  handed  down  from  the  Middle 
Ages,  that  Nicholas  von  Amsdorf,  Luther's  friend,  declared  the 
step  taken  by  Philip  constituted  "  a  mockery  and  insult  to  the 
Holy  Gospel  and  a  scandal  to  the  whole  of  Christendom."1  He 
thought  as  did  Justus  Jonas,  who  exclaimed  :  "  Oh,  what  a  great 
scandal  !  "  and,  "  Who  is  not  aghast  at  so  great  and  calamitous 
a  scandal  ?  "  Erasmus  Alber,  preacher  at  Marburg,  speaks  of 
the  "awful  scandal"  ("  immane  scandalum")  which  must 
result.3  In  a  letter  to  the  Landgrave  in  which  the  Hessian 
preacher,  Anton  Corvinus,  fears  a  "  great  falling  away "  on 
account  of  the  affair,  he  also  says,  that  the  world  will  not  "  in  any 
way  "  hear  of  such  a  marriage  being  lawful ;  his  only  advice  was  : 
'  Your  Serene  Highness  must  take  the  matter  to  heart  and,  on 
occasion,  have  recourse  to  lying."4  To  tell  a  deliberate  untruth, 
as  already  explained  (pp.  29,  53),  appeared  to  other  preachers 
likewise  the  only  possible  expedient  with  which  to  meet  the 
universal  reprobation  of  contemporaries  who  judged  of  the 
matter  from  their  "  mediaeval  "  standpoint. 

Justus  Menius,  the  Thuringian  preacher,  in  his  work  against 
polygamy  mentioned  above,  appealed  to  the  universal,  Divine 
"prohibition  which  forbids  and  restrains  us,"  a  prohibition 
which  applied  equally  to  the  "  great  ones  "  and  allowed  of  no 
dispensation.  He  also  pointed  out  the  demoralising  effect  of  a 
removal  of  the  prohibition  in  individual  cases  and  the  cunning 
of  the  devil  who  wished  thereby  "  to  brand  the  beloved  Evangel 
with  infamy."5 

Philip  had  defiled  the  Church  with  filth  ("  fcedissime  "),  so 
wrote  Johann  Brenz,  the  leader  of  the  innovations  in  Wiirtem- 
berg.  After  such  an  example  he  scarcely  dared  to  raise  his  eyes 
in  the  presence  of  honourable  women,  seeing  what  an  insult  this 
was  to  them.6 

Not  to  show  how  reprehensible  was  the  deed,  but  merely  to 
demonstrate  anew  how  little  ground  there  was  for  throwing  the 
responsibility  on  the  earlier  ages  of  the  Church,  we  may  recall 
that  the  Elector,  Johann  Frederick  of  Saxony,  on  first  learning 
of  the  project  through  Bucer,  expressed  his  "  horror,"  and  two 
days  later  informed  the  Landgrave  through  Briick,  that  such  a 
thing  had  been  unheard  of  for  ages  and  the  law  of  the  land  and 
the  tradition  of  the  whole  of  Christendom  were  likewise  against 

1  Amsdorfs  "  Bedenken,"  probably  from  the  latter  end  of  June, 
1540,  published  by  Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  324. 

"  Briefwechsel  des  Jonas,"  1,  pp.  394,  396.     Above,  p.  27,  n.  1. 
Further  details  in  Paulus,  ibid.,  p.  562. 

3  Jonas,  ibid.,  p.  397. 

4  P.  Tschackert,  "  Briefwechsel  des  Anton  Corvinus,"  1900,  p.  79. 
Paulus,  ibid.,  p.  563. 

5  G.  T.  Schmidt,  "  Justus  Menius  iiber  die  Bigamie."    ("  Zeitschr.  f. 
d.  hist.  Theol.,"  38,  1868,  p.  445  ff.     More  from  it  in  Paulus,  p.  565.     Cp. 
Rockwell,  ibid.,  p.  126.) 

6  Th.  Pressel,   "  Anecdota  Brentiana,"   1868,  p.  210  :    "  Commacu- 
lavit  ecclesiam  temeritate  sua  foedissime." 


it.  It  is  true  that  he  allowed  himself  to  be  pacified  and  sent  his 
representative  to  the  wedding,  but  afterwards  he  again  declared 
with  disapproval,  that  the  whole  world,  and  all  Christians  without 
distinction,  would  declare  the  Emperor  right  should  he  interfere  ; 
he  also  instructed  his  minister  at  the  Court  of  Dresden  to  deny 
that  the  Elector  or  the  Wittenberg  theologians  had  had  any  hand 
in  the  matter.1  Other  Princes  and  politicians  belonging  to  the 
new  faith  left  on  record  strong  expressions  of  theirj[disapproval ; 
for  instance  :  Elector  Joachim  II  of  Brandenburg,  Duke  Ulrich 
of  Wiirtemberg,  King  Christian  III  of  Denmark,  the  Strasburg 
statesman  Jacob  Sturm  and  the  Augsburg  ambassador  David 
Dettigkof er. 2  To  the  latter  the  news  ' '  was  frightful  tidings 
from  which  would  result  great  scandal,  a  hindrance  to  and  a 
falling  away  from  the  Holy  Evangel."3 

All  there  now  remains  to  do  is  to  illustrate,  by  statements 
made  by  Protestants  in  earlier  and  more  recent  times,  two 
important  points  connected  with  the  Hessian  episode  ;  viz. 
the  unhappy  part  which  politics  played  in  Luther's  attitude, 
and  what  he  said  on  lying.  Here,  again,  during  the  last  ten 
years  there  has  been  a  movement  in  Luther's  favour  amongst 
many  Protestant  theologians. 

Concerning  the  part  of  politics  W.  Rockwell,  the  historian 
of  the  bigamy,  openly  admits,  that :  "  By  his  threat  of 
seeking  protection  from  the  Emperor  for  his  bigamy,  Philip 
overcame  the  unwillingness  of  the  Wittenbergers  to  grant 
the  requested  dispensation."4  "It  is  clear,"  he  also  says, 
"  that  political  pressure  was  brought  to  bear  on  the  Witten- 
bergeis  by  the  Landgrave,  and  that  to  this  pressure  they 

That  consideration  for  the  effect  his  decision  was  likely  to 
have  on  the  attitude  of  the  Landgrave  weighed  heavily  in 
the  balance  with  Luther  in  the  matter  of  his  "  testimony," 
it  is  scarcely  possible  to  deny,  after  what  we  have  seen. 
"  The  Hessian  may  fall  away  from  us  "  (above,  p.  46), 
such  was  one  of  the  fears  which  undoubtedly  had  something 
to  do  with  his  compliance.  To  inspire  such  fear  was  plainly 
the  object  of  Philip's  threat,  that,  should  the  Wittenbergers 
not  prove  amenable,  he  would  make  advances  to  the 
Emperor  and  the  Pope,  and  the  repeated  allusions  made  by 
Luther  and  his  friends  to  their  dread  of  such  a  step,  and  of 
his  falling  away,  show  how  his  threat  continued  to  ring  in 
their  ears.6 

1  Paulus,  ibid.,  p.  569  f.          2  Ibid.,  p.  570  ff. 

3  Fr.  Roth,  "  Augsburgs  Reformationsgesch.,"  3,  1907,  p.  56. 

4  Ibid.,  p.  95.      5  Ibid.,  p.  154.      6  See  above,  p.  18,  21  f.,  46,  62  n.  2. 


Bucer  declared  he  had  himself  agreed  to  the  bigamy  from  fear 
lest  Philip  should  otherwise  be  lost  to  the  Evangelical  cause, J  and 
his  feelings  were  doubtless  shared  at  Wittenberg.  Melanchthon 
speaks  not  merely  of  a  possible  attempt  on  Philip's  part  to  obtain 
the  Emperor's  sanction  to  his  marriage,  but  of  an  actual  threat 
to  leave  the  party  in  the  lurch. 2  Johann  Brenz,  as  soon  as  news 
reached  him  in  Wiirtemberg  of  the  Landgrave's  hint  of  an 
appeal  to  the  Emperor,  saw  in  it  a  threat  to  turn  his  back  on 
the  protesting  party.3  All  three  probably  believed  that  at 
heart  the  Landgrave  would  remain  true  to  the  new  faith,  but 
what  Luther  had  chiefly  in  view  was  Philip's  position  as  head 
of  the  Schmalkalden  League. 

The  result  was  all  the  more  tragic.  The  compliance  wrung 
from  the  Wittenbergers  failed  to  protect  the  party  from  the 
evil  they  were  so  desirous  of  warding  off.  Philip's  recon 
ciliation  with  the  Emperor,  as  already  pointed  out,  was 
very  detrimental  to  the  Schmalkalden  League,  however 
insincere  his  motives  may  have  been. 

On  this  point  G.  Kawerau  says  :4  "In  the  Landgrave's  resolu 
tion  to  address  himself  to  the  Emperor  and  the  Pope,  of  which 
they  were  informed,  they  [Luther  and  Melanchthon]  saw  a 
'  public  scandal,'  a  '  publica  offensio,'  which  they  sought  to 
obviate  by  demanding  absolute  secrecy."5  "  But  the  disastrous 
political  consequences  did,  in  the  event,  make  their  appearance. 
.  .  .  The  zealously  promoted  alliance  with  Francois  I,  to  which 
even  the  Saxon  Elector  was  not  averse,  came  to  nothing  and 
Denmark  and  Sweden's  overtures  had  to  be  repelled.  The  prime- 
mover  in  the  Schmalkalden  League  was  himself  obliged  to  cripple 
the  League.  '  The  dreaded  champion  of  the  Evangel  became  the 
tool  of  the  Imperial  policy  '  (v.  Bezold).  From  that  time  forward 
his  position  lacked  precision  and  his  strong  initiative  was  gone." 

G.  Ellinger,  in  his  study  on  Melanchthon,  writes  :  "It  can 
scarcely  be  gainsaid  that  Luther  and  Melanchthon  allowed  them 
selves  in  a  moment  of  weakness  to  be  influenced  by  the  weight 
of  these  considerations."  The  petition,  he  explains,  had  been 

1  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  475.    Cp.  Kolde,  "  Luther,"  2,  p.  489,  and 
"  RE.  fiir  prot.  Theol.,"  153,  p.  310. 

2  "  Defectionem  etiam  minitabatur,    si  nos   consulere  ei   nollemus." 
To  Camerarius,  Aug.  24,  1540,  "  Corp.  ref.,"  3,  p.  1079.     Cp.  p.  863. 
Above,  p.  62. 

3  "  Hoc  fere   tantumdcm  cst  ac  si  minatus  esset,   se   ab  Evangelio 
defecturum."    Pressel,  p.  211. 

4  Moller,  "  Lehrb.  der  KG.,"  33,  p.  146  f. 

6  The  scandal  lay  rather  elsewhere.  According  to  Kawerau  Luther's 
"  principal  motive  was  his  desire  to  save  the  Landgrave's  soul  by  means 
of  an  expedient,  which,  though  it  did  not  correspond  with  the  perfect 
idea  of  marriage,  was  not  directly  forbidden  by  God,  and  in  certain 
circumstances  had  even  been  permitted.  The  questionable  nature  of 
this  advice  is,  however,  evident,"  etc. 


warmly  urged  upon  the  Wittenbergers  from  a  political  point  of 
view  by  Bucer,  the  intermediary.  "  If  Bucer  showed  himself 
favourable  to  the  Landgrave's  views  this  was  due  to  his  wish  to 
preserve  thereby  the  Evangelical  cause  from  the  loss  of  its  most 
doughty  champion  ;  for  Philip  had  told  him  in  confidence, 
that,  in  the  event  of  the  Wittenbergers  and  the  Saxon  Electorate 
refusing  their  consent,  he  intended  to  address  himself  directly 
to  the  Emperor  and  the  Pope  in  order  to  obtain  sanction  for 
his  bigamy."  The  Landgrave  already,  in  the  summer  of  1534, 
had  entertained  the  idea  of  approaching  the  Emperor,  and  in 
the  spring  of  1535  had  made  proposals  to  this  end.  "  It  can 
hardly  be  doubted  that  in  Bucer's  case  political  reasons  turned 
the  scale."  Ellinger  refers  both  to  the  admission  made  by 
Melanchthon  and  to  the  significant  warning  against  the  Emperor 
with  which  the  letter  of  Dispensation  closes.1 

The  strongest  reprobation  of  the  evil  influence  exerted  over 
Luther  by  politics  comes,  however,  from  Adolf  Hausrath.2  He 
makes  it  clear,  that,  at  Wittenberg,  they  were  aware  that 
Protestantism  "  would  assume  quite  another  aspect  were  the 
mighty  Protestant  leader  to  go  over  to  the  Pope  or  the  Emperor  ' '  ; 
never  has  "  the  demoralising  character  of  all  politics  "  been  more 
shamefully  revealed  ;  "  eternal  principles  were  sacrificed  to  the 
needs  of  the  moment  "  ;  "  Philip  had  to  be  retained  at  any  cost." 
Hence  came  the  "  great  moral  defeat  "  and  Luther's  "  fall." 

This  indignant  language  on  the  part  of  the  Heidelberg 
historian  of  the  Church  has  recently  been  described  by  a 
learned  theologian  on  the  Protestant  side  as  both  "  offen 
sive  "  and  uncalled  for.  Considering  Luther's  bold  char 
acter  it  is  surely  very  improbable,  that  an  attempt  to 
intimidate  him  would  have  had  any  effect  except  "  to 
arouse  his  spirit  of  defiance  "  ;  not  under  the  influence  of 
mere  "  opportunism  "  did  he  act,  but,  rather,  after  having, 
as  a  confessor,  heard  "  the  cry  of  deep  distress  "  he  sought 
to  come  to  "  the  aid  of  a  suffering  conscience." — In  answer 
to  this  we  must  refer  the  reader  to  what  has  gone  before, 
where  this  view,  which  seems  a  favourite  with  some  moderns, 
has  already  sufficiently  been  dealt  with.  It  need  only  be 
added,  that  the  learned  author  says  of  the  bigamy,  that  "  a 
fatal  blunder  "  was  made  by  Luther  .  .  .  but  only  because 
the  mediaeval  confessor  intervened.  "  The  reformer  was  not 
able  in  every  season  and  situation  to  assert  the  new  religious 
principle  which  we  owe  to  him  ;  hence  we  have  merely  one 
of  many  instances  of  failure,  though  one  that  may  well  be 
termed  grotesque  and  is  scarcely  to  be  matched."  "  Nothing 

1  "  Phil.  Melanchthon,"  pp.  378,  382. 

2  "  Luthers  Leben,"  2,  p.  393  ff. 


did  more  to  hinder  the  triumphal  progress  of  the  Reforma 
tion  than  the  Landgrave's  '  Turkish  marriage.'  '  As  to  the 
argument  drawn  from  Luther's  boldness  and  defiance,  a 
Protestant  has  pointed  out,  that  we  are  not  compelled  to 
regard  any  compliance  from  motives  of  policy  as  "  abso 
lutely  precluded "  ;  to  say  that  "  political  expediency 
played  no  part  whatever  in  Luther's  case  "  is  "  going  a  little 
too  far."  "  Did  then  Luther  never  allow  any  room  to 
political  considerations  ?  Even,  for  instance,  in  the  question 
of  armed  resistance  to  the  Emperor  ?  'u 

Referring  to  Luther's  notorious  utterance  on  lying, 
G.  Ellinger,  the  Protestant  biographer  of  Melanchthon,  says  : 
Luther's  readiness  to  deny  what  had  taken  place  is  "  one 
of  the  most  unpleasing  episodes  in  his  life  and  bears  sad 
testimony  to  the  frailty  of  human  nature."  His  statements 
at  the  Eisenach  Conference  "  show  how  even  a  great  man 
was  driven  from  the  path  of  rectitude  by  the  blending  of 
politics  with  religion.  He  advised  a  '  good,  downright  lie  ' 
that  the  world  might  be  saved  from  a  scandal.  ...  It  is 
sad  to  see  a  great  man  thus  led  astray,  though  at  the  same 
time  we  must  remember,  that,  from  the  very  start,  the 
whole  transaction  had  been  falsified  by  the  proposal  to 
conceal  it."2 

Th.  Kolde  says  in  a  similar  strain,  in  a  work  which  is 
otherwise  decidedly  favourable  to  Luther,  "  Greater  offence 
than  that  given  by  the  '  advice  '  itself  is  given  by  the 
attitude  Avhich  the  reformers  took  up  towards  it  at  a  later 

"  The  most  immoral  part  of  the  whole  business,"  so  Frederick 
von  Bezold  says  in  his  "  Geschichte  der  deutschen  Reformation," 
"  lay  in  the  advice  given  by  the  theologians  that  the  world  should 
be  imposed  upon.  ...  A  man  [Luther]  who  once  had  been 
determined  to  sacrifice  himself  and  the  whole  world  rather  than 
the  truth,  is  now  satisfied  with  a  petty  justification  for  his  falling 
away  from  his  own  principles."4  And,  to  conclude  with  the 
most  recent  biographer  of  Luther,  Adolf  Hausrath  thus  criticises 
the  invitation  to  tell  a  "  downright  lie  "  :  "  It  is  indeed  sad  to 

1  O.  Clemen,  "  Zeitschr.  f.  KG.,"  30,  1909,  p.  389  f.     Cp.  the  views 
of  the  Protestant  historians,   K.   Wenck,  H.   Virck  and  W.   Kohler, 
adduced  by  Paulus  (loc.  cit.,  p.  515),  who  all  admit  the  working  of 
political  pressure. 

2  "  Phil.  Melanchthon,"  pp.  382,  383.          3  Bd.,  2,  p.  488  f. 
*  Page  736. 


see  the  position  into  which  the  ecclesiastical  leaders  had  brought 
themselves,  and  how,  with  devilish  logic,  one  false  step  induced 
them  to  take  another  which  was  yet  worse."1 

This  notwithstanding,  the  following  opinion  of  a  defender  of 
Luther  (1909)  has  not  failed  to  find  supporters  in  the  Protestant 
world  :  "  The  number  of  those  who  in  the  reformation-period 
had  already  outgrown  the  lax  mediaeval  view  regarding  the  require 
ments  of  the  love  of  truth  was  probably  not  very  great.  One 
man,  however,  towers  in  this  respect  above  all  his  contemporaries, 
viz.  Luther.  He  it  was  who  first  taught  us  what  truthfulness 
really  is.  The  Catholic  Church,  which  repudiated  his  teaching, 
knows  it  not  even  to  this  day."  "  A  truthfulness  which  dis 
regards  all  else,"  nay,  a  "  positive  horror  for  all  duplicity  "  is, 
according  to  this  writer,  the  distinguishing  mark  of  Luther's  life. 

1  "  Luthers  Leben/'  2,  p.  403. 



1.  A  Battery  of  Assertions.1 

LUTHER'S  frank  admission  of  his  readiness  to  make  use  of 
a  "  good  big  lie  "  in  the  complications  consequent  on 
Philip's  bigamy,  and  his  invitation  to  the  Landgrave  to 
escape  from  the  dilemma  in  this  way,  may  serve  as  a  plea 
for  the  present  chapter.  "  What  harm  is  there,"  he  asks, 
"  if,  in  a  good  cause  and  for  the  sake  of  the  Christian 
Churches,  a  man  tells  a  good,  downright  lie  ?  "  "  A  lie  of 
necessity,  of  convenience,  or  of  excuse,  all  such  lies  are  not 
against  God  and  for  such  He  will  Himself  answer  "  ;  "  that 
the  Landgrave  was  unable  to  lie  strongly,  didn't  matter  in 
the  least."2 

It  is  worth  while  ascertaining  how  Luther — who  has  so 
often  been  represented  as  the  embodiment  of  German 
integrity  and  uprightness — -behaved  in  general  as  regards 
the  obligation  of  speaking  with  truth  and  honesty.  Quite 
recently  a  Protestant  author,  writing  with  the  sole  object 
of  exonerating  his  hero  in  this  particular,  bestowed  on  him 
the  title  of  "  Luther  the  Truthful."  "  Only  in  one  single 
instance,"  so  he  has  it,  "  did  Luther  advise  the  use  of  a  lie 
of  necessity  at  which  exception  might  be  taken."  In  order 
not  to  run  to  the  opposite  extreme  and  make  mountains  out 
of  mole-hills  we  shall  do  well  to  bear  in  mind  how  great  was 
the  temptation,  during  so  titanic  a  struggle  as  his,  for 
Luther  to  ignore  at  times  the  rigorous  demands  of  truth 
and  justice,  particularly  when  he  saw  his  opponents  occa 
sionally  making  light  of  them.  We  must  likewise  take  into 
consideration  the  vividness  of  Luther's  imagination,  the 

1  The  larger  portion  of  the  present  chapter  appeared  as  an  article 
in  the  "  Zeitschr.  fur  kath.  Theol.,"  29,  1905,  p.  417  ff. 

2  See  above,  p.  51. 



strength  of  the  ideas  which  dominated  him,  his  tendency  to 
exaggeration  and  other  mitigating  circumstances. 

There  was  a  time  when  Luther's  foes  were  ready  to 
describe  as  lies  every  false  statement  or  erroneous  quota 
tion  made  by  Luther,  as  though  involuntary  errors  and 
mistakes  due  to  forgetfulness  were  not  liable  to  creep  into 
his  works,  written  as  they  were  in  great  haste. 

On  the  other  hand,  some  of  Luther's  admirers  are  ready 
enough  to  make  admissions  such  as  the  following  :  "In 
point  of  fact  we  find  Luther  holding  opinions  concerning 
truthfulness  which  are  not  shared  by  every  Christian,  not 
even  by  every  evangelical  Christian."  "  Luther  unhesi 
tatingly  taught  that  there  might  be  occasions  when  it  was 
a  Christian's  duty  to  depart  from  the  truth."1 

To  this  we  must,  however,  add  that  Luther,  repeatedly  and 
with  the  utmost  decision,  urged  the  claims  of  truthfulness, 
branded  lying  as  "the  devil's  own  image,"2  and  extolled 
as  one  of  the  excellencies  of  the  Germans — in  Avhich  they 
differed  from  Italians  and  Greeks — their  reputation  for  ever 
being  "  loyal,  truthful  and  reliable  people  "  ;  he  also  adds — 
and  the  words  do  him  credit —  "  To  my  mind  there  is  no 
more  shameful  vice  on  earth  than  lying."3 

This,  however,  does  not  dispense  us  from  the  duty  of 
carefully  examining  the  particular  instances  which  seem  to 
militate  against  the  opinion  here  expressed. 

We  find  Luther's  relations  with  truth  very  strained  even 
at  the  beginning  of  his  career,  and  that,  too,  in  the  most 
important  and  momentous  explanations  he  gave  of  his 
attitude  towards  the  Church  and  the  Pope.  Frequently 
enough,  by  simply  placing  his  statements  side  by  side, 
striking  falsehoods  and  evasions  become  apparent.4 

For  instance,  according  to  his  own  statements  made  in 
private,  he  is  determined  to  assail  the  Pope  as  Antichrist, 
yet  at  the  same  time,  in  his  official  writings,  he  declares 
any  thought  of  hostility  towards  the  Pope  to  be  alien  to 
him.  It  is  only  necessary  to  note  the  dates:  On  March  13, 
1519,  he  tells  his  friend  Spalatin  that  he  is  wading  through  th'j 
Papal  Decretals  and,  in  confidence,  must  admit  his  uncertainty 
as  to  whether  the  Pope  is  Antichrist  or  merely  his  Apostle,  so 
miserably  had  Christ,  i.e.  the  truth,  been  crucified  by  him  in  the 

1  W.  Walther,  "  Theol.  Literaturblatt,"  1904,  No.  35.  Cp.  Walther, 
"  Fur  Luther,"  p.  425  ff. 

"  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  92,  p.  306.          3  Ibid.,  39,  p.  356. 
4  Fuller  proofs  will  be  found  scattered  throughout  our  earlier  volumes. 

IV. — G 


Decretals.1  Indeed,  even  in  the  earlier  half  of  Dec.,  1518,  he  had 
been  wondering  whether  the  Pope  was  not  Antichrist  ;  on 
Dec.  11,  writing  to  his  friend  Link,  he  said  he  had  a  suspicion, 
that  the  "  real  Antichrist  "  of  whom  Paul  speaks  ruled  at  the  Court 
of  Rome,  and  believed  that  he  could  prove  that  he  was  "  even 
worse  than  the  Turk."2  In  a  similar  strain  he  wrote  as  early  as 
Jan.  13,  1519,  that  he  intended  to  fight  the  "  Roman  serpent  " 
should  the  Elector  and  the  University  of  Wittenberg  allow  him  so 
to  do  ;3  on  Feb.  3,4  and  again  on  Feb.  20,  1519,5  he  admits  that  it 
had  already  "  long  "  been  his  intention  to  declare  war  on  Rome 
and  its  falsifications  of  the  truth. — In  spite  of  all  this,  at  the 
beginning  of  Jan.,  1519,  he  informed  the  Papal  agent  Miltitz  that 
he  was  quite  ready  to  send  a  humble  and  submissive  letter  to 
the  Pope,  and,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  on  Jan.  5  (or  6),  1519,  he 
wrote  that  strange  epistle  to  Leo  X  in  which  he  speaks  of  himself 
as  "  the  dregs  of  humanity  "  in  the  presence  of  the  Pope's 
"  sublime  majesty  "  ;  he  approaches  him  like  a  "  lambkin," 
whose  bleating  he  begs  the  Vicar  of  Christ  graciously  to  give  ear 
to.  Nor  was  all  this  merely  said  in  derision,  but  with  a  fixed 
purpose  to  deceive.  He  declares  with  the  utmost  solemnity 
"  before  God  and  every  creature  "  that  it  had  never  entered  his 
mind  to  assail  in  any  way  the  authority  of  the  Roman  Church 
and  the  Pope  ;  on  the  contrary,  he  ' '  entirely  admits  that  the  power 
of  the  Church  extends  over  all,  and  that  nothing  in  heaven  or  on 
earth  is  to  be  preferred  to  her,  except  Jesus  Christ  alone,  the 
Lord  of  all  things."  The  original  letter  still  exists,  but  the  letter 
itself  was  never  despatched,  probably  because  Miltitz  raised 
some  objection.6  Only  through  mere  chance  did  the  Papal 
Curia  fail  to  receive  this  letter,  which,  compared  with  Luther's 
real  thought  as  elsewhere  expressed,  can  only  be  described  as 

In  his  dealings  with  his  Bishop,  Hieronymus  Scultetus  the 
chief  pastor  of  Brandenburg,  he  had  already  displayed  a  like 

1   "  Briefwcchsel,"  1,  p.  450.          2  Ibid.,  p.  316. 

3  To  Christoph  Scheurl,  ibid.,  p.  348. 

4  To  Johann  Lang,  ibid.,  p.  410. 

5  To  Willibald  Pirkheimer,  ibid.,  p.  436. 

6  "  Brief wechsel,"  1,  p.  444.     Concerning  the  date  and  the  keeping 
back  of  the  letter,  see  Brieger,  "  Zeitschr.  fur  KG.,"  15,  1895,  p.  204  f. 

7  Strange  to  say,  this  document  has  not  been  taken  into  considera 
tion  by  G.   Sodeur,  in   "  Luther  und  die  Luge,  eine  Schutzschrift  " 
(Leipzig,   1904).     In  tho  same  way  other  sources  throwing  light  on 
Luther's  attitude  towards  lying  have  been  passed  over.     That  his 
object,  viz.  Luther's  vindication,  is  apparent  throughout,  is  perhaps 
only  natural.    How  far  this  object  is  attained  the  reader  may  see  from 
a  comparison  of  our  material  and  results  with  those  of  the  "  Schutz 
schrift."     The  same  holds  of  W.  Walther's  efforts  on  Luther's  behalf 
in  his  art.  "  Luther  und  die  Luge,"  and  in  his  "  Fur  Luther."     See 
above,  p.  81,  n.  1.     See  also  N.  Paulus,   "  Zu  Luthers  Doppelziingig- 
keit  "    ("Beil.    zur   Augsburger   Postztng.,"    1904,  No.    33);     "Hist. 
Jahrb.,"   26,   1905,  p.    168  f.;     "  Hist.-pol.   Bl.,"    1905,    135,   323  ff.  ; 
"  Wissenschaftl.  Beil.  zur  Germania,"  1904,  Nos.  33,  35. 


In  May,  1518,  he  wrote  assuring  him  in  the  most  respectful 
terms,  that  he  submitted  unconditionally  to  the  judgment  of  the 
Church  whatever  he  was  advancing  concerning  Indulgences  and 
kindred  subjects  ;  that  the  Bishop  was  to  burn  all  his  scribbles 
(Theses  and  Resolutions)  should  they  displease  him,  and  that  he 
would  "  not  mind  in  the  least."1 — And  yet  a  confidential  letter 
sent  three  months  earlier  to  his  friend  Spalatin  mentions,  though 
for  the  benefit  of  him  "  alone  and  our  friends,"  that  the  whole 
system  of  Indulgences  now  seemed  to  Luther  a  "  deluding  of 
souls,  good  only  to  promote  spiritual  laziness."2 

To  the  Emperor  too  he  also  gives  assurances  couched  in  sub 
missive  and  peaceful  language,  which  are  in  marked  contrast 
with  other  statements  which  emanated  from  him  about  the 
same  time. 

It  is  only  necessary  to  recall  his  letter  of  Aug.  30,  1520,  to 
Charles  V. 3  Here  Luther  seeks  to  convince  the  Emperor  that  he 
is  the  quietest  and  most  docile  of  theologians  ;  who  was  "  forced 
to  write  only  owing  to  the  snares  laid  for  him  by  others  "  ;  who 
wished  for  nothing  more  than  to  be  ignored  and  left  in  peace  ;  and 
who  was  ready  at  any  moment  to  welcome  the  instruction  which 
so  far  had  been  refused  him. — Very  different  was  his  language  a 
few  weeks  earlier  when  writing  to  Spalatin,  his  tool  at  the 
Electoral  Court  of  Saxony  :  "  The  die  is  cast  ;  the  despicable 
fury  or  favour  of  the  Romans  is  nothing  to  me  ;  I  desire  no 
reconciliation  or  communion  with  them.  ...  I  shall  burn  the 
whole  of  the  Papal  Laws  and  all  humility  and  friendliness  shall 
cease."4  He  even  hopes,  with  the  help  of  Spalatin  and  the 
Elector,  to  send  to  Rome  the  ominous  tidings  of  the  offer  made 
by  the  Knight  Silvester  von  Schauenburg  to  protect  him  by 
armed  force  ;  they  might  then  see  at  Rome  "  that  their  thunders 
are  of  no  avail  "  ;  should  they,  however,  obtain  from  the  Elector 
his  dismissal  from  his  chair  at  Wittenberg,  then,  "  with  the 
support  of  the  men-at-arms,  he  would  make  things  still  warmer 
for  the  Romans."5  And  yet,  on  the  other  hand,  Luther  was  just 
then  most  anxious  that  Spalatin,  by  means  of  the  Elector,  should 
represent  his  cause  everywhere,  and  particularly  at  Rome,  as  not 
yet  defined,  as  a  point  of  controversy  urgently  calling  for  examina 
tion  or,  at  the  very  least,  for  a  biblical  refutation  before  the 
Emperor  and  the  Church  ;  the  Sovereign  also  was  to  tell  the 
Romans  that  "  violence  and  censures  would  only  make  the  case 
of  Germany  worse  even  than  that  of  Bohemia,"  and  would  lead 
to  "  irrepressible  tumults."  In  such  wise,  by  dint  of  dishonest 
diplomacy,  did  he  seek  to  frighten,  as  he  says,  the  "  timid 
Romanists  "  and  thus  prevent  their  taking  any  steps  against 

If  we  go  back  a  little  further  we  find  a  real  and  irreconcilable 
discrepancy  between  the  actual  events  of  the  Indulgence  contro- 

1  On  May  22,  1518,  "  Briefwechsel,"  1,  p.  149. 

2  On  Feb.  15,  1518,  ibid.,  p.  155. 

"  Briefwechsel,"  2,  p.  469.  *  July  10,  1520,  ibid.,  p.  432. 

B  Ibid.,  Schauenbuvg's  letter,  ibid.,  p.  415.          8  Ibid.,  p.  433. 


versy  of  1517  and  1518  and  the  accounts  which  he  himself  gave 
of  them  later. 

"  I  was  forced  to  accept  the  degree  of  Doctor  and  to  swear  to 
preach  and  teach  my  cherished  Scriptures  truly  and  faithfully. 
But  then  the  Papacy  barred  my  way  and  sought  to  prevent  me 
from  teaching."1  "While  I  was  looking  for  a  blessing  from 
Rome,  there  came  instead  a  storm  of  thunder  and  lightning  ;  I 
was  made  the  lamb  that  fouled  the  water  for  the  wolf  ;  Detzel 
escaped  scot-free,  but  I  was  to  be  devoured."2 

His  falsehoods  about  Tetzel  are  scarcely  believable.  The  latter 
was,  so  he  says,  such  a  criminal  that  he  had  even  been  condemned 
to  death.3 

The  Indulgence-preachers  had  declared  (what  they  never 
thought  of  doing)  "  that  it  was  not  necessary  to  have  remorse 
and  sorrow  in  order  to  obtain  the  indulgence."4  In  his  old  age 
Luther  stated  that  Tetzel  had  even  given  Indulgences  for  future 
sins.  It  is  true,  however,  that  when  he  spoke  "  he  had  already 
become  a  myth  to  himself  "  (A.  Hausrath).  "  Not  only  are  the 
dates  wrong  but  even  the  events  themselves.  ...  It  is  the  same 
with  the  statement  that  Tetzel  had  sold  Indulgences  for  sins  not 
yet  committed.  ...  In  Luther's  charges  against  Tetzel  in  the 
controversy  on  the  Theses  we  hear  nothing  of  this  ;  only  in  the 
work  '  Wider  Hans  Worst '  (1541),  written  in  his  old  age,  does 
he  make  such  an  assertion."5  In  this  tract  Luther  does  indeed 
make  Tetzel  teach  that  "  there  was  no  need  of  remorse,  sorrow  or 
repentance  for  sin,  provided  one  bought  an  indulgence,  or  an 
indulgence-letter."  He  adds  :  "  And  he  [Tetzel]  also  sold  for 
future  sins."  (See  vol.  i.,  p.  342.) 

This  untruth,  clearly  confuted  as  it  was  by  facts,  passed  from 
Luther's  lips  to  those  of  his  disciples.  Mathesius  in  his  first 
sermon  on  Luther  seems  to  be  drawing  on  the  passage  in  "  Wider 
Hans  Worst  "  when  he  says,  Tetzel  had  preached  that  he  was 
able  to  forgive  the  biggest  past  "  as  well  as  future  sins." 6  Luther's 
friend,  Frederick  Myconius,  helped  to  spread  the  same  falsehood 
throughout  Germany  by  embodying  it  in  his  "  Historic  Reforma- 
tionis  "  (1542),'  whilst  in  Switzerland,  Henry  Bullinger,  who  also 
promoted  it,  expressly  refers  to  "  Wider  Hans  Worst  "  as  his 

In  this  way  Luther's  misrepresentations  infected  his  whole 
circle,  nor  can  we  be  surprised  if  in  this,  as  in  so  many  similar 
instances,  the  falsehood  has  held  the  field  even  to  our  own  day.9 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  10,  3,  p.  386  ;   Erl.  ed.,  252,  p.  87. 

2  Ibid.,  Erl.  ed.,  262,  p.  72.  3  Ibid.,  p.  70,  68  f. 

4  Ibid.,  Weim.  ed.,  30,  2,  p.   284;    Erl.   ed.,  242,  p.  367.     On  in 
dulgences  for  the  departed,  see  our  vol.  i.,  p.  344. 

5  Hausrath,  "  Luthers  Leben,"  2,  1904,  p.  432. 

6  Historien  (1566),  p.  11.  7  Ed.  Cyprian.,  p.  20. 

8  "  Reformationsgesch.     von    H.    Bullinger,"     ed.    Hottinger    u. 
Vogeli,  1,  1838,  p.  19. 

\&  *  One  such  tale  put  in  circulation  by  the  Lutherans  in  the  16th 
century  has  been  dealt  with  by  N.  Paulus  in  "  Gibt  es  Ablasse  fur 
zukunftigo  Siinden  ?  "  ("Lit.  Beil.  derKoln.  Volksztng.,"  1905,  No.  43.) 


We  may  mention  incidentally,  that  Luther  declares  concern 
ing  the  fame  which  his  printed  "  Propositions  against  Tetzel's 
Articles  "  brought  him  :  "It  did  not  please  me,  for,  as  I  said,  I 
myself  did  not  know  what  the  Indulgence  was,"1  although  his 
first  sermons  are  a  refutation,  both  of  his  own  professed  ignorance 
and  of  that  which  he  also  attributes  "  to  all  theologians  generally." 
— Finally,  Luther  was  very  fond  of  intentionally  representing  the 
Indulgence  controversy  as  the  one  source  of  his  opposition  to  the 
Church,  and  in  this  he  was  so  successful  that  many  still  believe 
it  in  our  own  times.  The  fact  that,  long  before  1517,  his  views  on 
Grace  and  Justification  had  alienated  him  from  the  teaching  of 
the  Church,  he  keeps  altogether  in  the  background. 

At  length  the  Church  intervened  with  the  Ban  and  Luther 
was  summoned  before  the  Emperor  at  the  Diet  of  Worms. 
Three  years  later,  at  the  cost  of  truth,  he  had  already  con 
trived  to  cast  a  halo  of  glory  around  his  public  appearance 
there.  For  instance,  we  know  how,  contrary  to  the  true 
state  of  the  case,  he  wrote  :  "I  went  to  Worms  although 
I  knew  that  the  safe  conduct  given  me  by  the  Emperor 
would  be  broken  "  ;  for  the  German  Princes,  otherwise  so 
staunch  and  true,  had,  he  says,  learned  nothing  better 
from  the  Roman  idol  than  to  disregard  their  plighted  word  ; 
when  he  entered  Worms  he  had  "  taken  a  jump  into  the 
gaping  jaws  of  the  monster  Behemoth."2  Yet  he  knew  well 
enough  that  the  promise  of  a  safe  conduct  was  to  be  kept 
most  conscientiously.  Only  on  the  return  journey  did  he 
express  the  fear  lest,  by  preaching  in  defiance  of  the  pro 
hibition,  he  might  make  people  say  that  he  had  thereby 
forfeited  his  safe  conduct.3 

Yet  again  it  was  no  tribute  to  truth  and  probity,  when, 
after  the  arrival  in  Germany  of  the  Bull  of  Excommunication, 
though  perfectly  aware  that  it  was  genuine,  he  nevertheless 
feigned  in  print  to  regard  it  as  a  forgery  concocted  by  his 
enemies,  to  the  detriment  of  the  Evangel.  In  confidence 

Here,  in  view  of  some  modern  misapprehensions  of  the  so-called 
Confession  and  Indulgence  letters,  he  says  :  "  They  referred  to  future 
sins,  only  inasmuch  as  they  authorised  those  who  obtained  them  to 
select  a  confessor  at  their  own  discretion  for  their  subsequent  sins,  and 
promised  an  Indulgence  later,  provided  the  sins  committed  had  been 
humbly  confessed.  In  this  sense  even  our  modern  Indulgences 
promised  for  the  future  may  be  said  to  refer  to  future  sins." 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  262,  p.  71. 

2  To  Count  Sebastian  Schlick,  July  15,  1522,  "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  6, 
p.  385  ("  Briefwechsel,"  3,  p.  433). 

3  To   Count  Albert   of   Mansfeld,    from    Eisenach,    May   9,    1521, 
"  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  53,  p.  74  ("  Briefwechsel,"  3,  p.  144). 


he  declared  that  he  "  believed  the  Bull  to  be  real  and 
authentic,"1  and  yet  at  that  very  time,  in  his  "  Von  den 
ne wen  Eckischenn  Bullen  und  Lugen,"  he  brought  forward 
four  reasons  for  its  being  a  forgery,  and  strove  to  make  out 
that  the  document  was,  not  the  work  of  the  Pope,  but  a 
"  tissue  of  lies  "  woven  by  Eck.2 

His  tactics  had  been  the  same  in  the  case  of  an  edict 
directed  against  him  by  the  Bishop  of  Meissen,  the  first  of 
the  German  episcopate  to  take  action.  He  knew  very  well 
that  the  enactment  was  genuine.  Yet  he  wrote  in  reply 
the  "  Antwort  auff  die  Tzedel  sso  unter  des  Officials  tzu 
Stolpen  Sigel  ist  aussgangen,"  as  though  the  writer  were 
some  unknown  opponent,  who  ..."  had  lost  his  wits  on 
the  Gecksberg."3 

A  similar  artifice  was  made  to  serve  his  purpose  in  the 
matter  of  the  Papal  Brief  of  Aug.  23,  1518,  in  which  Cardinal 
Cajetan  received  full  powers  to  proceed  against  him.  He 
insisted  that  this  was  a  malicious  fabrication  of  his  foes  in 
Germany  ;  and  yet  he  was  well  aware  of  the  facts  of  the 
case  ;  he  cannot  have  doubted  its  authenticity,  seeing  that 
the  Brief  had  been  officially  transmitted  to  him  from  the 
Saxon  Court  through  Spalatin.4 

While,  however,  accusing  others  of  deception,  even 
occasionally  by  name,  as  in  Eck's  case,  he  saw  no  wrong  in 
antedating  his  letter  to  Leo  X  ;  for  this  neither  he  nor  his 
adviser  Miltitz  was  to  be  called  to  account ;  it  sufficed  that 
by  dating  it  earlier  the  letter  appeared  to  have  been  written 
in  ignorance  of  the  Excommunication,  and  thereby  served 
Luther's  interests  better.5 

In  fact,  right  through  the  period  previous  to  his  open 
breach  with  Rome,  we  see  him  ever  labouring  to  postpone  the 
decision,  though  a  great  gulf  already  separated  him  from  the 
Church  of  yore.  Across  the  phantom  bridge  which  still 
spanned  the  chasm,  he  saw  with  satisfaction  thousands 
passing  into  his  own  camp.  When  on  the  very  point  of 

1  To  Spalatin,  (11)  October^  1520,  "  Brief wechsel,"  2,  p.  491: 
"  credo  veram  et  propriam  esse  bullam." 

"  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  6,  p.  592  ;   Erl.  ed.,  242,  p.  29  ff. 

3  Ibid.,  p.  138=27,  p.  80,  in  February,  1520. 

4  Kostlin-Kawerau,  1,  pp.  214,  759. 

6  The  letter  was  written  after  Oct.  13,  1520,  but  is  dated  Sep.  6,  the 
Excommunication  having  been  published  on  Sep.  21.  Cp.  Miltitz  to 
the  Elector  of  Saxony,  Oct.  14,  1520,  in  Enders,  "  Brief  wechsel 
Luthers,"  2,  p.  495,  n.  3. 


raising  the  standard  of  revolt  he  seemed  at  pains  to  prove  it 
anything  but  an  emblem  of  uprightness,  probity  and  truth. 

Passing  now  to  the  struggle  of  his  later  life,  similar 
phenomena  can  scarcely  escape  the  eyes  of  the  unprejudiced 

He  was  proposing  untruth  and  deception  when,  in  1520, 
he  advised  candidates  to  qualify  for  major  Orders  by  a 
fictitious  vow  of  celibacy.  Whoever  was  to  be  ordained 
subdeacon  was  to  urge  the  Bishop  not  to  demand  continency, 
but  should  the  Bishop  insist  upon  the  law  and  call  for 
such  a  promise,  then  the  candidates  were  quietly  to 
give  it  with  the  proviso  :  "  quantum  fragilitas  humana 
permittit  "  ;  then,  says  Luther,  "  each  one  is  free  to  take 
these  words  in  a  negative  sense,  i.e.  I  do  not  vow  chastity 
because  human  frailty  does  not  allow  of  a  man  living 

To  what  lengths  he  was  prepared  to  go,  even  where 
members  of  Reformed  sects  were  concerned,  may  be  seen 
in  one  of  his  many  unjust  outbursts  against  Zwingli  and 
(Ecolampadius.  Although  they  were  suffering  injustice 
and  violence,  yet  he  denounced  them  mercilessly.  They 
were  to  be  proclaimed  "  damned,"  even  though  this  led  to 
"  violence  being  offered  them  "  ;  this  was  the  best  way  to 
make  people  shrink  from  their  false  doctrines.2  His  own 
doctrines,  on  the  other  hand,  he  says,  are  such  that  not  even 
Catholics  dared  to  condemn  them.  On  his  return  to  Witten 
berg  from  the  Coburg  he  preached,  that  the  Papists  had 
been  forced  to  admit  that  his  doctrine  did  not  offend  against 
a  single  article  of  the  Faith.3 — Of  Carlstadt,  his  theological 
child  of  trouble,  he  asserted,  that  he  wished  to  play  the  part 
of  teacher  of  Holy  Scripture  though  he  had  never  in  all  his 
life  even  seen  the  Bible, 4  and  yet  all,  Luther  inclusive,  knew 
that  Carlstadt  was  not  so  ignorant  of  the  Bible  and  that 
he  could  even  boast  of  a  considerable  acquaintance  with 
Hebrew.  Concerning  Luther's  persecution  of  Carlstadt,  a 
Protestant  researcher  has  pointed  to  the  "  ever-recurring 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  6,  p.  441  f.  ;    Erl.  eel.,  21,  p.  323  f. 

2  Cordatus,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  279  :    "  It  was  much  better  and  safer 
to  declare  them  damned  than  saved." 

3  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  32,  1906,  p.  133,  sermons  here  printed  for 
the  first  time. 

4  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  2,  p.  240. 


flood   of  misrepresentations,    suspicions,    vituperation   and 
abuse  which  the  Reformer  poured  upon  his  opponent."1 

Such  being  his  licence  of  speech,  what  treatment  could 
Catholics  expect  at  his  hands  ?  One  instance  is  to  be  found 
in  the  use  he  makes  against  the  Catholics  of  a  well-known 
passage  of  St.  Bernard's. 

St.  Bernard,  says  Luther,  had  declared  the  religious  life  to  be 
worthless  and  had  said  :  "  Perdite  vixi  "  ("I  have  shamefully 
wasted  my  life  ").  The  great  Saint  of  the  religious  life,  the 
noblest  patron  and  representative  of  the  virtues  of  the  cloister, 
Luther  depicts  as  condemning  with  these  words  the  religious  life 
in  general  as  an  abominable  error  ;  he  would  have  him  brand 
his  own  life  and  his  attention  to  his  vows,  as  an  existence  foreign 
to  God  which  he  had  too  late  recognised  as  such  !  By  this  state 
ment,  says  Luther,  he  "  hung  up  his  cowl  on  the  nail,"  and 
proceeds  to  explain  his  meaning  :  "  Henceforward  he  cared  not 
a  bit  for  the  cowl  and  its  foolery  and  refused  to  hear  any  more 
about  it."2  Thus,  so  Luther  assures  us,  St.  Bernard,  at  the 
solemn  moment  of  quitting  this  world,  "  made  nothing  "  ("  nihili 
fecit  ")  of  his  vows.3 

When  quoting  the  words  "  Perdite  vixi  "  Luther  frequently 
seeks  to  convey  an  admission  on  the  Saint's  part  of  his  having 
come  at  last  to  see  that  the  religious  life  was  a  mistake,  and 
merely  led  people  to  forget  Christ's  merits  ;  that  he  had  at  last 
attained  the  perception  during  sickness  and  had  laid  hold  on 
Christ's  merits  as  his  only  hope.4  Even  on  internal  grounds  it  is 
too  much  to  assume  Luther  to  have  been  in  good  faith,  or  merely 
guilty  of  a  lapse  of  memory.  That  we  have  here  to  do  with  a 
distorted  version  of  a  perfectly  harmless  remark  is  proved  to  the 
historian  by  another  passage,  dating  from  the  year  1518,  where 
Luther  himself  refers  quite  simply  and  truly  to  the  actual  words 
employed  by  St.  Bernard  and  sees  in  them  merely  an  expression 
of  humility  and  the  admission  of  a  pure  heart,  which  detested 
the  smallest  of  its  faults. 5 

Denifle  has  followed  up  the  "  Perdite  vixi  "  with  great  acumen, 
shown  the  frequent  use  Luther  made  of  it  and  traced  the  words 
to  their  actual  context  in  St.  Bernard's  writings.  The  text  does 
not  contain  the  faintest  condemnation  of  the  religious  life,  so 
that  Luther's  incessant  misuse  of  it  becomes  only  the  more 
incomprehensible. 8 

1  Barge,  "  Andreas  Bodenstein  von  Carlstadt,"  2,  p.  223. 

2  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  47,  p.  37  f. 

3  Ibid.,  Weim.  ed.,  8,  p.  658  ;    "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  6,  p.  360. 

4  Ibid.,  p.  601  =  p.  278. 

6  Ibid.,  1,  p.  323=1,  p.  338  ;    1,  p.  534=2,  p.  142. 

6  Denifle,  "  Luther,"  I2,  p.  44.  Denifle  has  shown  that  the  passage 
in  question  occurs  in  the  form  of  a  prayer  in  St.  Bernard's  "  Sermo  XX 
in  Cantica  "  "  P.L.,"  183,  col.  867  :  "  De  mea  misera  vita  suscipe 
(Deus),  obsecro,  residuum  annorum  meorum  ;  pro  his  (annis)  quos 


St.  Bernard  is  here  speaking  solely  of  his  own  faults  and 
imperfections,  not  at  all  of  the  religious  life  or  of  the  vows.  Nor 
were  the  words  uttered  on  his  death-bed,  when  face  to  face  with 
eternity,  but  occur  in  a  sermon  preached  in  the  full  vigour  of 
manhood  and  when  the  Saint  was  eagerly  pursuing  his  monastic 

Again,  what  things  were  not  circulated  by  Luther,  in  the 
stress  of  his  warfare,  concerning  the  history  of  the  Popes 
and  the  Church  ?  Here,  again,  some  of  his  statements  were 
not  simply  errors  made  in  good  faith,  but,  as  has  been 
pointed  out  by  Protestant  historians,  malicious  inventions 
going  far  beyond  the  matter  contained  in  the  sources  which 
\ve  know  to  have  been  at  his  command.  The  Popes 
"  poisoned  several  Emperors,  beheaded  or  otherwise  be 
trayed  others  and  put  them  to  death,  as  became  the 
diabolical  spectre  of  the  Papacy."1  The  bloodthirsty  Popes 
were  desirous  of  "  slaying  the  German  Emperors,  as 
Clement  IV  did  with  Conradin,  the  last  Duke  of  Suabia  and 
hereditary  King  of  Naples,  whom  he  caused  to  be  publicly 
put  to  death  by  the  sword."2  Of  this  E.  Schafer  rightly 
says,  that  the  historian  Sabellicus,  whom  Luther  was 
utilising,  simply  (and  truly)  records  that  :  "  Conradin  was 
taken  while  attempting  to  escape  and  was  put  to  death  by 
order  of  Charles  [of  Anjou]  "  ;  Clement  IV  Sabellicus  does 
not  mention  at  all,  although  it  is  true  that  the  Pope  \vas  a 
strong  opponent  of  the  Staufen  house.3 

The  so-called  letter  of  St.  Ulrich  of  Augsburg  against 
clerical  celibacy,  with  the  account  of  3000  (6000)  babies' 
heads  found  in  a  pond  belonging  to  St.  Gregory's  nunnery 
in  Rome,  is  admittedly  one  of  the  most  impudent  forgeries 
found  in  history  and  emanated  from  some  foe  of  Gregory  VII 
and  opponent  of  the  ancient  law  of  celibacy.  Luther 
brought  it  out  as  a  weapon  in  his  struggle  against  celibacy, 
and,  according  to  Kostlin-Kawerau,  most  probably  the 
Preface  to  the  printed  text  published  at  Wittenberg  in  1520 

vivendo  perdidi,  quia  perdite  vixi,  cor  contritum  et  humiliatum  Deus  non 
despicias.  Dies  mei  sicut  umbra  declinaverunt  et  prceterierunt  sine 
fruciu.  Impossibile  est,  ut  revocem  ;  placeat,  ut  recogitem  tibi  eos  in 
amaritudine  animce  mece."  Denifle  points  out  that  the  sermon  in 
question  was  preached  about  1136  or  1137,  about  sixteen  years  before 
Bernard's  death,  thus  certainly  not  in  his  last  illness. 

1   "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  262,  p.  249.          2  Ibid.,  p.  145  ;    cp.  p.  204. 

3  "  Luther  als  Kirchenhistoriker,"  Giitersloh,  1897,  p.  391,  referring 
to  Sabellicus,  "  Rhapsod.  hist.  Ennead.,"  9,  8. 


came  from  his  pen.1  The  manuscript  had  been  sent  to 
Luther  from  Holland.  Emser  took  him  to  task  and  proved 
the  forgery,  though  on  not  very  substantial  grounds.  Luther 
demurred  to  one  of  his  arguments  but  declared  that  he  did 
not  build  merely  on  a  doubtful  letter.  In  spite  of  this, 
however,  the  seditious  and  alluring  fable  was  not  only  not 
withdrawn  from  circulation  but  actually  reprinted.  When 
Luther  said  later  that  celibacy  had  first  been  introduced  in 
the  time  of  St.  Ulrich,  he  is  again  speaking  on  the  authority 
of  the  supposititious  letter.  This  letter  was  also  worked  for 
all  it  was  worth  by  those  who  later  took  up  the  defence  of 
Luther's  teaching.2 

To  take  one  single  example  of  Luther's  waywardness  in 
speaking  of  Popes  who  were  almost  contemporaries  :  He 
tells  us  with  the  utmost  assurance  that  Alexander  VI  had 
been  an  "  unbelieving  Marane."  However  much  we  may 
execrate  the  memory  of  the  Borgia  Pope,  still  so  extra 
ordinary  an  assertion  has  never  been  made  by  any  sensible 
historian.  Alexander  VI,  the  pretended  Jewish  convert  and 
"  infidel  "  on  the  Papal  throne  !  Who  could  read  his  heart 
so  well  as  to  detect  an  infidelity,  which,  needless  to  say,  he 
never  acknowledged  ?  Who  can  credit  the  tale  of  his  being  a 
Marane  ? 

When,  in  July  14,  1537,  Pope  Paul  III  issued  a  Bull  grant 
ing  an  indulgence  for  the  war  against  the  Turks,  Luther  at 
once  published  it  with  misleading  notes  in  which  he  sought 
to  show  that  the  Popes,  instead  of  linking  up  the  Christian 
powers  against  their  foes,  had  ever  done  their  best  to  promote 
dissensions  amongst  the  great  monarchs  of  Christendom.3 

In  1538  he  sent  to  the  press  his  Schmalkalden  "  Artickel  " 
against  the  Pope  and  the  prospective  Council,  adding 
observations  of  a  questionable  character  regarding  their 

1  Kostlin-Kawerau,    1,   p.    766,   p.   350,   n.    1.      For  the   literature 
dealing  with  the  Ulrich  fable,  see  N.  Paulus,   "  Die  Dominikaner  im 
Kampfe    gegen    Luther,"    p.    253;    and  particularly    J.    Haussleiter, 
"  Beitrage  zur  bayerischen  KG.,"  6,  p.  121  f. 

2  Cp.  Mathesius,  "  Historien,"  p.  40,  and  Flacius  Illyricus  in  his  two 
separate  editions  of  the  letter.     Flacius  also  incorporated  the  Ulrich 
letter  in  his  "  Catalogue  testium  veritatis  "  and  repeatedly  referred  to 
it   in   his   controversial   writings.      See  J.   Niemoller's   article   on   the 
mendacity  of  a  certain  class  of  historical  literature  in  the  16th  century, 
"Flacius  und  Flacianismus  "   ("  Zeitschr.  f.  kath.  Theol.,"   12,  1888, 
pp.  75-115,  particularly  p.  107  i'.). 

3  Cp.  Knaake,  "  Zeitschr.  fur  luth.  Theol.,"  1876,  p.  362. 


history  and  meaning.  He  certainly  was  exalting  unduly 
the  Articles  when  he  declared  in  the  Introduction,  that 
"  they  have  been  unanimously  accepted  and  approved  by 
our  people."  It  is  a  matter  of  common  knowledge,  that, 
owing  to  Melanchthon's  machinations,  they  had  never  even 
been  discussed.  (See  vol.  iii.,  p.  434.)  They  were  neverthe 
less  published  as  though  they  had  been  the  official  scheme 
drafted  for  presentation  to  the  Council.  Luther  also  put 
into  the  printed  Artickel  words  which  are  not  to  be  found 
in  the  original.1  The  following  excuse  of  his  statement  as 
to  their  having  been  accepted  at  Schmalkaldeii  has  been 
made  :  "  It  is  evident,  that,  owing  to  his  grave  illness  at 
Schmalkalden,  he  never  learnt  the  exact  fate  of  his  Articles." 
Yet  who  can  believe,  that,  after  his  recovery,  he  did  not 
make  enquiries  into  what  had  become  of  the  Articles  on 
which  he  laid  so  much  weight,  or  that  he  "  never  learnt  " 
their  fate,  though  the  matter  was  one  well  known  to  both 
the  Princes  and  the  theologians  ?  Only  after  his  death  were 
these  Articles  embodied  in  the  official  Confessions.2 

Seeing  that  he  was  ready  to  misrepresent  even  the  official 
proceedings  of  his  own  party,  we  cannot  be  surprised  if,  in 
his  controversies,  he  was  careless  about  the  truth  where  the 
person  of  an  opponent  was  concerned.  Here  it  is  not  always 
possible  to  find  even  a  shadow  of  excuse  behind  which  he 
can  take  refuge.  Of  Erasmus's  end  he  had  received  accounts 
from  two  quarters,  both  friendly  to  his  cause,  but  they  did 
not  strike  him  as  sufficiently  damning.  Accordingly  he  at 
once  set  in  currency  reports  concerning  the  scholar's  death 
utterly  at  variance  with  what  he  had  learnt  from  the  letters 
in  question.3  He  accused  the  Catholics,  particularly  the 
Catholic  Princes,  of  attempting  to  murder  him,  and  fre 
quently  speaks  of  the  hired  braves  sent  out  against  him. 
Nor  were  his  friends  and  pupils  slow  to  take  his  words 
literally  and  to  hurl  such  charges,  more  particularly  against 
Duke  George  of  Saxony.4  Yet  not  a  single  attempt  on  his 
life  can  be  proved,  and  even  Protestants  have  admitted 
concerning  the  Duke  that  "  nothing  credible  is  known  of 

1  Cp.  Kolde  on  Luther's  "  private  print,"  in  Miiller,  "  Bekenntnis- 
schriften  "10,  p.  xxvi.,  n.  1. 

2  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  397  f. 

3  For  proofs  from  Luther's  correspondence,  vol.  xi.,  see  the  article  of 
N.  Paulus  in  the  "  Lit.  Beil.  der  Koln.  Volksztng.,"  1908,  p.  220.     On 
Erasmus,  see  below,  p.  93. 

4  "  Ratzebergers  Chronik,"  ed.  Neudecker,  p.  69  f. 


any  attempt  on  George's  part  to  assassinate  Luther."1 
Cochlaeus  merely  relates  that  murderers  had  offered  their 
services  to  Duke  George  ;2  beyond  that  nothing. 

Far  more  serious  than  such  misrepresenting  of  individuals 
was  the  injustice  he  did  to  the  whole  ecclesiastical  life  of  the 
Middle  Ages,  which  he  would  fain  have  made  out  to  have 
entirely  fallen  away  from  the  true  standard  of  Christian 
faith  and  practice.  Seen  through  his  new  glasses,  mediaeval 
life  was  distorted  beyond  all  recognition.  Walter  Kohler 
gives  a  warning  which  is  to  the  point  :  "  Protestant 
historians  must  beware  of  looking  at  the  Middle  Ages  from 
Luther's  standpoint."3  In  particular  was  mediaeval 
Scholasticism  selected  by  Luther  and  his  friends  as  a  butt 
for  attack  and  misrepresentation.  Bucer  admits  in  a  letter 
to  Bullinger  how  far  they  had  gone  in  this  respect  :  "  We 
have  treated  all  the  Schoolmen  in  such  a  way  as  to  shock 
many  good  and  worthy  men,  who  see  that  we  have  not  read 
their  works  but  are  merely  anxious  to  slander  them  out  of 

However  desirous  we  may  be  of  crediting  the  later 
Luther  with  good  faith  in  his  distorted  views  of  Catholic 
practices  and  doctrines,  still  he  frequently  goes  so  far  in  this 
respect  as  to  make  it  extremely  difficult  to  believe  that  his 
misrepresentations  were  based  on  mere  error  or  actual 
conviction.  One  would  have  thought  that  he  would  at 
least  have  noticed  the  blatant  contrast  between  his  insinua 
tions  and  the  text  of  the  Breviary  and  Missal — books  with 
which  he  was  thoroughly  conversant — and  even  of  the  rule 
of  his  Order.  As  a  monk  and  priest  he  was  perfectly 
familiar  with  them  ;  only  at  the  cost  of  a  violent  wrench 
could  he  have  passed  from  this  so  different  theological 
world  to  think  as  he  ultimately  did  of  the  doctrines  of 
Catholicism.  Dollinger  was  quite  right  when  he  wrote  : 
"  As  a  controversialist  Luther  combined  undeniably 
dialectic  and  rhetorical  talent  with  a  degree  of  unscrupulous- 
ness  such  as  is  rarely  met  with  in  this  domain.  One  of  his 
most  ordinary  methods  was  to  distort  a  doctrine  or  institu 
tion  into  a  mere  caricature  of  itself,  and  then,  forgetful  of 

1  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  G62,  p.  307,  n.  1. 

2  Joh.  Karl  Seidemann,  "  Beitrage  zur  RG.,"  1845  ff.,  p.  137. 

3  "  Katholizismus  und  Reformation,"  p.  45. 

*  Letter  to  Bullinger,  1535,  "  Corp.  ref.,"  10,  p.  138. 


the  fact  that  what  he  was  fighting  was  a  simple  creation 
of  his  fancy,  to  launch  out  into  righteous  abuse  of  it.  ... 
So  soon  as  he  touches  a  theological  question,  he  confuses  it, 
often  of  set  purpose,  and  as  for  the  reasons  of  his  opponents, 
they  are  mutilated  and  distorted  out  of  all  recognition."1 
The  untruthfulness  of  his  polemics  is  peculiarly  apparent 
in  his  attack  on  free-will.  It  is  impossible,  even  with  the 
best  of  intentions,  to  put  it  all,  or  practically  all,  to  the 
account  "  of  the  method  of  disputation  "  then  in  use.  That 
method,  the  syllogistic  one,  called  for  a  clear  and  accurate 
statement  of  the  opponent's  standpoint.  The  controversy 
round  "  De  servo  arbitrio  "  (fully  dealt  with  in  vol.  ii.,  pp. 
223-294)  has  recently  been  studied  by  two  scholars,  one  a 
Protestant,  the  other  a  Catholic,  and  both  authors  on  the 
whole  agree  at  least  on  one  point,  viz.  that  Luther  ascribed 
to  his  opponent  a  denial  of  the  necessity  of  Grace,  such  as 
the  latter  never  defended,  and  such  as  is  quite  unknown  to 
Catholics.2  Indeed,  at  a  later  juncture  in  that  same  con 
troversy  Luther  even  declared  of  the  author  of  the  "  Hyper- 
aspistes  "  that  he  denied  the  Trinity  !3 

Instead  of  instancing  anew  all  the  many  minor  mis 
representations  of  the  dogmas  and  practices  of  the  older 
Church  for  which  Luther  was  responsible,  and  which  are 
found  scattered  throughout  this  work,  we  may  confine  our 
selves  to  recalling  his  bold  assertion,  that  all  earlier  ex 
positors  had  taken  the  passage  concerning  "  God's  justice," 
in  Rom.  i.  17,  as  referring  to  punitive  justice.4  This  was  what 

1  "  Luther,  eine  Skizze,"  p.  56  f.;    "  KL.,"  82,  col.  342  f. 

2  K.  Zickendraht,  "  Der  Streit  zwischen  Erasmus  und  Luther  iiber 
die  Willensfreiheit,"  Leipzig,  1909,  admits  at  least  concerning  some  of 
Luther's  assertions  in  the  "  De  servo  arbitrio,"  that  "  he  was  led  away 
by  the  wish  to  draw  wrong  inferences  from  his  opponent's  premises  "  ; 
for  instance,  in  asserting  that  Erasmus  "  outdid  the  Pelagians  "  ;    by 
reading  much  into  Erasmus  which  was  not  there  he  brought  charges 
against  him  which  are  "  manifestly  false  "  (p.  81).    Luther  sought  "  to 
transplant  the  seed  sown  by  Erasmus  from  its  native  soil  to  his  own 
field  "  (p.  79)  ;    the  ideas  of  Erasmus  "  were  interpreted  agreeably  to 
Luther's  own  ways  and  logic"   (cp.   p.   v.);    it  would  not  be  right 
"  simply  to  take  for  granted  that  Luther's  supposed  allies  (such  as 
Laurentius  Valla,  '  De   libero   arbitrio  '  ;    cp.    '  Werke,'    Erl.    ed.,    58, 
p.  237  ff.)  in  the  struggle  with  Erasmus,  really  were  what  he  made  them 
out  to  be  "   (p.   2). — H.   Humbertclaude,    "  Erasme  et  Luther,   leur 
polemique  sur  le  libre  arbitre,"  Paris,  1910,  lays  still  greater  stress  on 
the  injustice  done  to  Erasmus  by  Luther. 

3  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  30,  3,  p.  531  ;    "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  7,  p.  523. 
Cp.  Enders,  "  Luthers  Brief wechsel,"  9,  p.  253,  n.  3,  and  our  vol.  ii., 
p.  398  f.  4  "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  7,  p.  74.    Cp.  our  vol.  i.,  p.  400  f. 

he  taught  from  his  professor's  chair  and  what  we  find 
vouched  for  in  the  notes  of  a  zealous  pupil  of  whose  fidelity 
there  can  be  no  question.  And  yet  it  has  been  proved,  that, 
with  the  possible  exception  of  Abelard,  not  one  can  be 
found  who  thus  explained  the  passage  of  which  Luther 
speaks  ("  hunc  locum "),  whilst  Luther  himself  was  ac 
quainted  with  some  at-  least  of  the  more  than  sixty  com 
mentators  who  interpret  it  otherwise.  Significant  enough 
is  the  fact  that  he  only  reached  this  false  interpretation 

Luther  also  says  that  he  and  all  the  others  had  been  told 
it  was  a  mortal  sin  to  leave  their  cell  without  their  scapular, 
though  he  never  attempts  to  prove  that  this  was  the  general 
opinion,  or  was  even  held  by  anybody.  The  rule  of  his 
Order  rejected  such  exaggeration.  All  theologians  were 
agreed  that  such  trifles  did  not  constitute  a  grievous  sin. 
Luther  was  perfectly  aware  that  Gerson,  who  was  much 
read  in  the  monasteries,  was  one  of  these  theologians  ;  he 
praised  him,  because,  though  looked  at  askance  at  Rome, 
he  set  consciences  free  from  over-great  scrupulosity  and 
refused  to  brand  the  non-wearing  of  the  scapular  as  a  crime.1 
Gerson  was  indeed  not  favourably  regarded  in  Rome,  but 
this  was  for  other  reasons,  not,  as  Luther  makes  out,  on 
account  of  such  common-sense  teaching  as  the  above. 

Then  again  we  have  the  untruth  he  is  never  tired  of 
reiterating,  viz.  that  in  the  older  Church  people  thought 
they  could  be  saved  only  by  means  of  works,  and  that, 
through  want  of  faith  in  Christ,  the  "  Church  had  become 
a  whore."2  Yet  ecclesiastical  literature  in  Luther's  day  no 
less  than  in  ours,  and  likewise  an  abundance  of  documents 
bearing  on  the  point  teach  quite  tha  contrary  and  make  faith 
in  Christ  the  basis  of  all  the  good  works  enjoined.3  All  were 
aware,  as  Luther  himself  once  had  been,  that  outward 
works  taken  by  themselves  were  worthless.  And  yet  Luther, 
in  one  of  the  charges  which  he  repeated  again  and  again, 
though  at  the  outset  he  cannot  have  believed  it,  says  :  "  The 
question  is,  how  we  are  to  become  pious.  The  Grey  Friar 
says  :  Wear  a  grey  hood,  a  rope  and  the  tonsure.  The 
Black  Friar  says :  Put  on  a  black  frock.  The  Papist :  Do 

1  Schlaginhaufen,  "  Aufzeichnungen,"  p.  41. 

"  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  58,  p.  391  ("  Tischreden  "). 

3  Cp.  e.g.  the  summarised  teaching  of  an  eminent  theologian,  Denis 
the  Carthusian,  in  Krogh-Tonning,  "  Der  letzte  Scholastiker,"  1904. 


this  or  that  good  work,  hear  Mass,  pray,  fast,  give  alms, 
etc.,  and  each  one  whatever  he  fancies  will  help  him  to  be 
saved.  But  the  Christian  says  :  Only  by  faith  in  Christ  can 
you  become  pious,  and  righteous  and  secure  salvation  ; 
only  through  Grace  alone,  without  any  work  or  merits  of 
your  own.  Now  look  and  see  which  is  true  righteousness."1 
Let  us  listen  for  a  moment  to  the  indignant  voice  of  a 
learned  Catholic  contemporary,  viz.  the  Saxon  Dominican, 
Bartholomew  Kleindienst,  himself  for  a  while  not  unfavour 
able  to  the  new  errors,  who,  in  1560,  replied  to  Luther's 
misrepresentations  :  "  Some  of  the  leaders  of  sects  are  such 
impudent  liars  as,  contrary  to  their  own  conscience,  to 
persuade  the  poor  people  to  believe,  that  we  Catholics  of 
the  present  day,  or  as  they  term  us  Papists,  do  not  believe 
what  the  old  Papists  believed  ;  we  no  longer  think  any 
thing  of  Christ,  but  worship  the  Saints,  not  merely  as  the 
friends  of  God  but  as  gods  themselves  ;  nay,  we  look  upon 
the  Pope  as  our  God  ;  we  Avish  to  gain  heaven  by  means 
of  our  works,  without  God's  Grace  ;  we  do  not  believe  in 
Holy  Writ ;  have  no  proper  Bible  and  should  be  unable 
to  read  it  if  we  had  ;  trust  more  in  holy  wrater  than  in 
the  blood  of  Christ.  .  .  .  Numberless  such-like  horrible, 
blasphemous  arid  hitherto  unheard-of  lies  they  invent  and 
use  against  us.  The  initiate  are  well  aware  that  this  is  the 
chief  trick  of  the  sects,  wrhereby  they  render  the  Papacy  an 
abomination  to  simple  and  otherwise  well-disposed  folk."2 

But  had  not  Luther,  carried  away  by  his  zeal  against  the 
Papists,  taken  his  stand  on  the  assumption,  that,  against 
the  deception  and  depravity  of  the  Papal  Antichrist,  every 
weapon  was  good  provided  only  that  it  helped  to  save  souls  ? 
Such  at  any  rate  was  his  plea  in  justification  of  his  work 
"An  den  christlichen  Adel."3  Again,  during  the  menacing 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  58,  p.  391. 

2  From   Kleindienst,    "  Ein   recht    catholisch   Ermanung   an   seine 
lieben  Teutschen,"  Dillingen,  1560,  Paulus,   "  Die  deutschen  Domini- 
kaner,"  etc.,  1903,  p.  276. 

3  To  Johann   Lang,   Aug.    18,    1520,    "  Briefwechsel,"    2,   p.   461  : 
"  Nos  hie  persuasi  sumus,  papatum  esse  veri  et  germani  illius  Antichristi 
sedem,  in  cuius  deceptionem  et  nequitiam  ob  salutem  animarum  nobis 
omnia  licere  arbitramur."      This  must  not   be   translated   "  to   their 
deceiving  and  destruction,"  but,  "  against  their  trickery  and  malice." 
The  passage  strictly  refers  to  his  passionate  work   "  An  den  Christ- 
lichen  Adel,"  but  seems  also  to  be  intended  generally. 


Diet  of  Augsburg,  when  recommending  the  use  of  the 
questionable  "  Gospel-proviso,"  he  let  fall  the  following  in  a 
letter :  Even  "  tricks  and  failings  "  ("  doli  et  lapsus  "),  should 
they  occur  amongst  his  followers  in  their  resistance  to  the 
Papists,  "  can  easily  be  atoned  for  once  we  have  escaped 
the  danger."1  He  even  adds  :  "  For  God's  Mercy  watches 
over  us." 

In  the  midst  of  the  double-dealing  then  in  progress 
Luther  again  appealed  to  Christ  in  his  letter  to  Wenceslaus 
Link  on  Sep.  20,  1530,  where  he  says  :  Christ  "  would  be 
well  pleased  with  such  deceit  and  would  scornfully  cheat 
the  [Papist]  deceivers,  as  he  hoped,"  i.e.  raise  false  hopes 
that  the  Lutherans  would  yield  ;  later  they  would  find  out 
their  mistake,  and  that  they  had  been  fooled.  Here  is  my 
view  of  the  matter,  he  continues,  "  I  am  secure,  that  with 
out  my  consent,  their  consent  [the  concessions  of  Melanch- 
thon  and  his  friends  at  the  Diet]  is  invalid.  Even  were  I 
too  to  agree  with  these  blasphemers,  murderers  and  faithless 
monsters,  yet  the  Church  and  [above  all]  the  teaching  of 
the  Gospel  would  not  consent."  This  was  his  "  Gospel- 
proviso,"  thanks  to  which  all  the  concessions,  doctrinal  or 
moral,  however  solemnly  granted  by  him  or  by  his  followers, 
might  be  declared  invalid — "  once  we  have  escaped  the 
danger."  (See  vol.  iii.,  p.  337  ff.) 

The  underhandedness  which  he  advocated  in  order  that 
the  people  might  not  be  made  aware  of  the  abrogation  of 
the  Mass,  has  been  considered  above  (vol.  ii.,  p.  321). 
Another  strange  trick  on  his  part — likewise  for  the  better 
furtherance  of  his  cause — was  his  attempt  to  persuade  the 
Bishop  of  Samland,  George  von  Polenz,  who  had  fallen  away 
from  the  Church  and  joined  him,  "  to  proceed  with  caution  "; 

1  To  Melanchthon,  Aug.  28,  1530,  "  Brief wechsel,"  8,  p.  235.  Cp. 
vol.  ii.,  p.  386.  Luther  says:  " dolos  et  lapsus  nostroa  facile  emenda- 
bimus  "  ;  thus  assuming  his  part  of  the  responsibility.  The  explana 
tion  that  he  is  speaking  merely  of  the  mistakes  which  Melanchthon 
might  make,  and  simply  wished  "  to  console  and  sympathise  with  him," 
is  too  far-fetched  to  be  true.  In  his  edition  of  the  "  Brief  wechsel  " 
Enders  has  struck  out  the  word  "  mendacia  "  after  "  dolos,"  though 
wrongly,  as  we  shall  see  in  vol.  vi.,  xxxvi.,  4.  According  to  Enders  the 
handwriting  is  too  faint  for  it  to  be  accepted  as  genuine.  As  there  is 
no  original  of  the  letter  the  question  remains  how  it  came  into  the  old 
copies  which  were  in  Lutheran  hands.  In  any  case,  such  an  interpella 
tion  would  be  more  difficult  to  understand  than  its  removal.  Cp.  also 
Luther's  own  justification  of  such  mendacia  in  1524  and  1528,  given 
below  on  p.  109  ff. 


"  therefore  that  it  would  be  useful  foi1  him  [the  Bishop] 
to  appear  to  suspend  his  judgment  ("  ut  velut  suspendens  sen- 
tentiam  appareret '  ) ;  to  wait  until  the  people  had  consented, 
and  then  throw  in  his  weight  as  though  he  had  been  con 
quered  by  their  arguments."1  Couched  in  Luther's  ordinary 
language  this  would  mean  that  the  Bishop  was  to  pretend 
to  be  wavering  between  Christ  and  Antichrist,  between 
hell  and  the  Evangel,  though  any  such  wavering,  to  say 
nothing  of  any  actual  yielding,  would  have  been  a  capital 
crime  against  religion.  At  the  best  the  Bishop  could  only 
hypocritically  feign  to  be  wavering  in  spite  of  the  other  public 
steps  he  had  taken  in  Luther's  favour  and  of  which  the 
latter  was  well  aware. 

Later,  in  1545,  considering  the  "  deception  and  depravity  " 
of  the  Papacy  Luther  thought  himself  justified  in  insinu 
ating  in  a  writing  against  the  Catholic  Duke  Henry  of 
Brunswick,2  then  a  prisoner,  that  the  Pope  had  furnished 
him  supplies  for  his  unfortunate  Avarlike  enterprise  against 
the  allies  of  the  evangelical  confession. 

Of  this  there  was  not  the  shadow  of  a  proof.  The  contrary  is 
clear  from  Protestant  documents  and  protocols.3  The  Court  of 
the  Saxon  Electorate,  where  an  insult  to  the  Emperor  was 
apprehended,  was  aghast  at  Luther's  resolve  to  publish  the 
charge  concerning  the  "  equipment  from  Italy,"  and  Chancellor 
Briick  hastened  to  request  him  to  alter  the  proofs  for  fear  of  evil 
consequences.4  Luther,  however,  was  in  no  mood  to  yield  ;  the 
writing  comprising  this  malicious  insinuation  and  other  false 
hoods  was  even  addressed  in  the  form  of  a  letter  to  the  Saxon 
Elector  and  the  allied  Princes.  At  the  same  time  the  author,  both 
in  the  text  and  in  his  correspondence,  gave  the  impression  that 
the  writing  had  been  composed  without  the  Elector's  knowledge 
and  only  at  the  request  of  "  many  others,  some  of  them  great 
men,"  though  in  reality,  as  Protestants  admit,  the  "  work  had 
been  written  to  order,"  viz.  at  the  instigation  of  the  Electoral 

"  We  all  know,"  Luther  says,  seemingly  with  the  utmost 
gravity,  in  this  work  against  the  Duke,  "  that  Pope  and  Papists 
desire  our  death,  body  and  soul.  We,  on  the  other  hand,  desire 

1  To  the  apostate  Franciscan  Johann  Briesmann,  July  4,  1524, 
"  Briefwechsel,"  4,  p.  360.  These  instructions  to  the  preacher  who  was 
to  work  for  the  apostasy  of  the  Teutonic  Order  in  Prussia  are  character 
istic  of  Luther's  diplomacy.  Cp.  the  directions  to  Martin  Weier  (above, 
vol.  ii.,  p.  323).  2  "  Briefe,"  6,  p.  386  ff. 

3  Cp.  v.  Druffel  in  the  "  SB.  der  bayer.  Akad.,  phil.-hist.  Kl.,"  2, 
1888,  and  "  Forschungen  zur  deutschen  Gesch.,"  25,  p.  71. 

4  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  693,  p.  612,  n.  1.  5  Ibid.,  p.  612. 

IV.— H 


to  save  them  with  us,  soul  and  body." l  There  is  no  need  to  waste 
words  on  the  intentions  here  ascribed  to  the  Papists.  As  to 
Luther's  own  good  intentions  so  far  as  the  material  welfare  of 
the  Papists  goes,  what  he  says  does  not  tally  with  the  wish  he  so 
loudly  expressed  at  that  very  time  for  the  bloody  destruction  of 
the  Pope.  Further,  as  regards  the  Papists'  souls,  what  he  said 
of  his  great  opponent,  Archbishop  Albert  of  Mayence,  deserves 
to  be  mentioned  :  "  He  died  impenitent  in  his  sins  and  must  be 
damned  eternally,  else  the  Christian  faith  is  all  wrong."2  Did 
Luther  perhaps  write  this  with  a  heavy  heart  ?  Yet  he  also 
condemns  in  advance  the  soul  of  the  unhappy  Duke  of  Bruns 
wick,  "  seeing  there  is  no  hope  of  his  amendment,"  and  "  even 
though  he  should  feign  to  repent  and  become  more  pious,"  yet 
he  would  not  be  trusted  since  "  he  might  pretend  to  repent  and 
amend  merely  in  order  to  climb  back  to  honour,  lands  and  people, 
which  assuredly  would  be  nothing  but  a  false  and  foxy  repent 
ance."3  Hence  he  insists  upon  the  Princes  refusing  to  release 
the  Duke.  But  even  his  own  friends  will  not  consider  his  religious 
motives  for  this  very  profound  or  genuine,  for  instance,  when  he 
says  :  Were  he  to  be  released,  "  many  pious  hearts  would  be 
saddened  and  their  prayers  for  your  Serene  Highnesses  become 
tepid  and  cold."4  His  political  reasons  were  no  less  founded  on 
untruth.  The  only  object  of  the  League  of  the  Catholic  Princes 
was  to  seize  upon  the  property  of  the  evangelical  Princes  ;  "  they 
were  thinking,  not  of  the  Christian  faith,  but  of  the  lands  of  the 
Elector  and  the  Landgrave  "  ;  they  have  made  "  one  league 
after  the  other  "  and  now  "  call  it  a  defensive  one,  as  though 
forsooth  they  were  in  danger,"  whereas  "  we  for  our  part  have 
without  intermission  prayed,  implored,  called  and  cried  for 

While  Luther  was  himself  playing  fast  and  loose  with 
truth,  he  was  not  slow  to  accuse  his  opponents  of  lying  even 
when  they  presented  matters  as  they  really  were.  When 
Eck  published  the  Bull  of  Excommunication,  which  Luther 
himself  knew  to  be  authentic,  he  was  roundly  rated  for 
saying  that  his  "tissue  of  lies  "  was  "the  Pope's  work."6 
In  fact,  in  all  and  everything  that  Catholics  undertake 
against  his  cause,  they  are  seeking  "  to  deceive  us  and  the 
common  people,  though  well  aware  of  the  contrary.  .  .  . 
You  see  how  they  seek  the  truth.  .  .  .  They  are  rascals 
incarnate."7  In  fighting  against  the  lies  of  his  opponents 
Luther,  once, — curiously  enough — in  his  writing  "  Widder 
die  hymelischen  Propheten  "  actually  takes  the  Pope  under 

1  "  Briefe,"  6,  p.  401.          2  Ibid.,  p.  386. 
3  Ibid.  4  Ibid.,  p.  387.  5  Ibid.,  p.  391. 

c  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  6,  p.  592  ;   Erl.  ed.,  242,  p.  29. 
7  Ibid.,  26,  p.  532  f.  =  63,  p.  276. 


his  protection  against  the  calumnies  of  his  Wittenberg 
opponent  Carlstadt ;  seeking  to  brand  him  as  a  liar,  he 
declares  that  he  "  was  notoriously  telling  lies  of  the  Pope." 

We  already  know  how  much  Carlstadt  had  to  complain 
of  Luther's  lying  and  fickleness. 

This  leads  to  a  short  review  of  the  remarks  made  by 
Luther's  then  opponents  and  friends  concerning  his  want  of 

2.  Opinions  of  Contemporaries  in  either  Camp 

Luther's  work  against  Duke  Henry  of  Brunswick  entitled 
"  Wider  Hans  Worst  "  was  so  crammed  with  malice  and 
falsehoods  that  even  some  of  Luther's  followers  were 
disposed  to  complain  of  its  unseemliness.  Simon  Wilde, 
who  was  then  studying  medicine  at  Wittenberg,  wrote  on 
April  8,  1541,  when  forwarding  to  his  uncle  the  Town  Clerk, 
Stephen  Roth  of  Zwickau,  a  copy  of  the  booklet  which  had 
just  appeared  :  "  I  am  sending  you  a  little  work  of  Dr. 
Martin  against  the  Duke  of  Brunswick  which  bristles  with 
calumnies,  but  which  also  [so  he  says]  contains  much  that  is 
good,  and  may  be  productive  of  something  amongst  the 

Statements  adverse  to  Luther's  truthfulness  emanating 
from  the  Protestant  side  are  not  rare  ;  particularly  are  they 
met  with  in  the  case  of  theologians  who  had  had  to  suffer 
from  his  violence  ;  nor  can  their  complaints  be  entirely 
disallowed  simply  because  they  came  from  men  who  were 
in  conflict  with  him,  though  the  circumstance  would  call  for 
caution  in  making  use  of  them  were  the  complaints  not 
otherwise  corroborated. 

QEcolampadius  in  his  letter  to  Zwingli  of  April  20,  1525, 
calls  Luther  a  "  master  in  calumny,  and  prince  of  sophists."2 

The  Strasburg  preachers  Bucer  and  Capito,  though 
reputed  for  their  comparative  moderation,  wrote  of  one  of 
Luther's  works  on  the  Sacrament,  that  "  never  had  anything 
more  sophistical  and  calumnious  seen  the  light."3 

1  G.   Buchwald,    "  Simon    Wilde  "    ("  Mitt,   der  deutschen    Gesell- 
schaft  zur  Erforschung  vaterland.  Sprache  und  Altertums  in  Leipzig," 
9,  1894,  p.  61  ff.),  p.  95  :   "  libellum  calumniis  refertissimum." 

2  "  Zwinglii  Opp.,"   8,  p.   165:    "  calumniandi  magister  ct  sophis- 
tarum  princeps." 

3  Letter  to  J.   Vadian,   April    14,    1528,    "  Die  Vadianische  Brief- 
sammlung,"  4,  p.  101.    "Mitt,  zur  vaterl.  Gesch.  von  St.  Gallen,"  28, 

100          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

Thomas  Miinzer  repeatedly  calls  his  enemy  Luther  "Dr. 
Liar  "  and  "  Dr.  Lyinglips,"1  on  account  of  the  unkind- 
ness  of  his  polemics ;  more  picturesquely  he  has  it  on  one 
occasion,  that  "  he  lied  from  the  bottom  of  his  gullet."2 

Bucer  complains  in  terms  of  strong  disapprobation,  that, 
when  engaged  with  his  foes,  Luther  was  wont  to  misrepresent 
and  distort  their  doctrines  in  order  the  more  readily  to  gain  the 
upper  hand,  at  least  in  the  estimation  of  the  multitude.  He 
finds  that  "  in  many  places  "  he  has  "  rendered  the  doctrines 
and  arguments  of  the  opposite  side  with  manifest  untruth,"  for 
which  the  critic  is  sorry,  since  this  "  gave  rise  to  grave  doubts 
and  temptations  "  amongst  those  who  detected  this  practice, 
and  diminished  their  respect  for  the  Evangelical  teaching.3 

The  Lutheran,  Hieronymus  Pappus,  sending  Luther's  work 
"  Wider  Hans  Worst  "  to  Joachim  Vadian,  declared  :  "In 
calumny  he  does  not  seem  to  me  to  have  his  equal."4 

Johann  Agricola,  once  Luther's  friend,  and  then,  on  account 
of  his  Antinomianism,  his  adversary,  brings  against  Luther 
various  charges  in  his  Notes  (see  above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  278)  ;  the 
worst  refer  to  his  "  lying."  God  will  punish  Luther,  he  writes, 
referring  to  his  work  "  Against  the  Antinomians  "  ;  "he  has 
heaped  too  many  lies  on  me  before  all  the  world."  Luther  had 
said  that  Agricola  denied  the  necessity  of  prayer  or  good  works  ; 
this  the  latter,  appealing  to  his  witnesses,  brands  as  an  "  abomin 
able  lie."  He  characterises  the  whole  tract  as  "  full  of  lies,"5  and, 
in  point  of  fact,  there  is  no  doubt  it  did  contain  the  worst  ex 

Among  the  writers  of  the  opposite  camp  the  first  place  is  due 
to  Erasmus.  Of  one  of  the  many  distortions  of  his  meaning  com 
mitted  by  Luther  he  says  :  "  It  is  true  I  never  look  for  modera 
tion  in  Luther,  but  for  so  malicious  a  calumny  I  was  certainly 
not  prepared."6  Elsewhere  he  flings  in  his  face  the  threat  :  "  I 
shall  show  everybody  what  a  master  you  are  in  the  art  of  mis 
representation,  defamation,  calumny  and  exaggeration.  But 
the  world  knows  this  already.  ...  In  your  sly  way  you  contrive 
to  twist  even  what  is  absolutely  true,  whenever  it  is  to  your 

1  "  Neudrucke  deutscher  Literaturwerke,"  Hft.  118,  1893,  pp.  19, 

29,  etc. 

2  Cp.  Miinzer  in  Enders,  "  Luthers  Brief wechsel,"  4,  p.  374,  n.  6. 
Ibid.,  p.  373,  n.  1,  "  the  mendacious  Luther." 

3  "  Vergleichung  D.  Luthers  und  seines  Gegenteiles  vom  Abendmahl 
Christi,"  1528,  p.  23. 

4  "  Vadianische  Brief sammlung,"  6,  p.  16  ("  Mitt.  z.  v.  G.  v.  S.G."), 

30,  1,  1906)  :   Pappus  calls  the  book  :    "  librum  famosissimum,  plaustra 
et  carros  convitiorum.      Misereor   huius    tarn  felicissimi   ingenii,    quod 
tantis  se  immiscet  sordibus  ;  et  profecto,  ut  est  Lutherus  vertendo  et  docendo 
inimitabilis,    ita    mihi    iam    quoque    videtur    calumniando    non    parem 
habere."      Letter   of   April    13,    1541.      Pappus   was   Burgomaster   of 

5  E.  Thiele,  "  Theol.  Stud,  und  Krit.,"  1907,  p.  265  f. 

6  "  Ep.,"  1,  18  ;    "  Opp.,"  3,  col.  1056. 


interest  to  do  so.  You  know  how  to  turn  black  into  white  and 
to  make  light  out  of  darkness." 1  Disgusted  with  Luther's  methods, 
he  finally  became  quite  resigned  even  to  worse  things.  He  writes  : 
"  I  have  received  Luther's  letter  ;  it  is  simply  the  work  of  a 
madman.  He  is  not  in  the  least  ashamed  of  his  infamous  lies 
and  promises  to  do  even  worse.  What  can  those  people  be  think 
ing  of  who  confide  their  souls  and  their  earthly  destiny  to  a  man 
who  allows  himself  to  be  thus  carried  away  by  passion  ?  "2 

The  polemic,  Franz  Arnoldi,  tells  Luther,  that  one  of  his  works 
contains  "  as  many  lies  as  words."3 

Johann  Dietenberger  likewise  says,  referring  to  a  newly 
published  book  of  Luther's  which  he  had  been  studying  :  "  He 
is  the  most  mendacious  man  under  the  sky."4 

Paul  Bachmann,  shortly  after  the  appearance  of  Luther's 
booklet  "  Von  der  Winckelmesse,"  in  his  comments  on  it  emits 
the  indignant  remark  :  "  Luther's  lies  are  taller  even  than  Mount 

"  This  is  no  mere  erring  man,"  Bachmann  also  writes  of  Luther, 
"  but  the  wicked  devil  himself  to  whom  no  lie,  deception  or 
falsehood  is  too  much." 6 

Johann  Eck  sums  up  his  opinion  of  Luther's  truthfulness  in 
these  words  :  "  He  is  a  man  who  simply  bristles  with  lies  ('  homo 
totus  mendaciis  scatens  ')".7  The  Ingolstadt  theologian,  like 
Bartholomew  Kleindienst  (above,  p.  95),  was  particularly  struck 
by  Luther's  parody  of  Catholic  doctrine. — Willibald  Pirkheimer's 
words  in  1528  we  already  know.8 

We  pass  over  similar  unkindly  epithets  hurled  at  him  by 
indignant  Catholic  clerics,  secular,  or  regular.  The  latter, 
particularly,  speaking  with  full  knowledge  and  therefore  all  the 
more  indignantly,  describe  as  it  deserves  what  he  says  of  vows, 
as  a  glaring  lie,  of  the  falsehood  of  which  Luther,  the  quondam 
monk,  must  have  been  fully  aware. 

Of  the  Catholic  Princes  who  were  capable  of  forming  an 
opinion,  Duke  George  of  Saxony  with  his  downright  language 
must  be  mentioned  first.  In  connection  with  the  Pack  negotia 
tions  he  says  that  Luther  is  the  "  most  cold-blooded  liar  he  had 
ever  come  across."  "  We  must  say  and  write  of  him,  that  the 
apostate  monk  lies  like  a  desperate,  dishonourable  and  for 
sworn  miscreant."  "  We  have  yet  to  learn  from  Holy  Scripture 
that  Christ  ever  bestowed  the  mission  of  an  Apostle  on  such  an 

1  "  Hypcraspistes,"  1,  9,  col.  1043. 

2  Letter  to  George  Agricola,  in  Buchwald,   "  Zeitschr.  fur  kirchl. 
Wissenschaft  und  kirchl.  Leben,"  5,  Leipzig,  1884,  p.  56. 

3  "  Antwort  auf  das  Buchlein,"  1531.    "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  252,  p.  89. 

4  "  De  votis  monasticis,"   1,  2,  Colon.,   1524,  Bl.  S  5':    "Omnium 
mendacissimus,  qui  sub  ccelo  vivunt,  hominum." 

5  "  Lobgesang  auff  des  Luthers  Winckelmesse,"  Leipzig,  1534,  Bl. 
E  2'.    The  author  was  Abbot  of  Altzelle. 

6  "  Ein    Maulstreich    dem    lutherischen    liigenhaften,    weit    aufges- 
perrten  Rachen,"  Dresden,  1534.  '  See  above,  vol.  ii.,  p.  147. 

8  See  vol.  ii.,  p.  40  :  "  Quum  ita  frontem  perfricucrit,  ut  a  nullo 
abslineut  mendacio,'"  etc. 

102         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

open  and  deliberate  liar  or  sent  him  to  proclaim  the  Gospel."1 
Elsewhere  he  reminds  Luther  of  our  Lord's  words  :  "  By  their 
fruits  you  shall  know  them  "  :  To  judge  of  the  spirit  from  the 
fruits,  Luther's  spirit  must  be  a  "spirit  of  lying";  indeed, 
Luther  proved  himself  "  possessed  of  the  spirit  of  lies."2 

3.  The  Psychological  Problem 
Self-suggestion  and  Scriptural  Grounds  of  Excuse 
Not    merely    isolated    statements,    but    whole    series    of 
regularly  recurring  assertions  in  Luther's  works,  constitute 
a  real  problem,  and,  instead  of  challenging  refutation  make 
one  ask  how  their  author  could  possibly  have  come  to  utter 
and  make  such  things  his  own. 

A  Curious  Mania. 

He  never  tires  of  telling  the  public,  or  friends  and  supporters 
within  his  own  circle,  that  "  not  one  Bishop  amongst  the  Papists 
reads  or  studies  Holy  Scripture  "  ;  "  never  had  he  [Luther] 
whilst  a  Catholic  heard  anything  of  the  Ten  Commandments  "  ; 
in  Rome  they  say  :  "  Let  us  be  cheerful,  the  Judgment  Day  will 
never  come  "  ;  they  also  call  anyone  who  believes  in  revelation 
a  "  poor  simpleton  "  ;  from  the  highest  to  the  lowest  they 
believe  that  "  there  is  no  God,  no  hell  and  no  life  after  this  life  "  ; 
when  taking  the  religious  vows  the  Papists  also  vowed  they 
"  had  no  need  of  the  Blood  and  Passion  of  Christ  "  ;  I,  too,  "  was 
compelled  to  vow  this  "  ;  all  religious  took  their  vows  "  with  a 
blasphemous  conscience." 

He  says  :  In  the  Papacy  "  they  did  not  preach  Christ,"  but 
only  the  Mass  and  good  works  ;  and  further  :  "  No  Father  [of 
the  Church]  ever  preached  Christ  "  ;  and  again  :  "  They  knew 
nothing  of  the  belief  that  Christ  died  for  us  "  ;  or :  "No  one  [in 
Popery]  ever  prayed  "  ;  and  :  Christ  was  looked  upon  only  as  a 
"  Judge  "  and  wre  "  merely  fled  from  the  wrath  of  God,"  knowing 
nothing  of  His  mercy.  "  The  Papists,"  he  declares,  "  condemned 
marriage  as  forbidden  by  God,"  and  "  I  myself,  while  still  a 
monk,  was  of  the  same  opinion,  viz.  that  the  married  state  was  a 
reprobate  state." 

In  the  Papacy,  so  Luther  says  in  so  many  words,  "  people 
sought  to  be  saved  through  Aristotle."3  "In  the  Papacy  the 
parents  did  not  provide  for  their  children.  They  believed  that 
only  monks  and  priests  could  be  saved."4  "  In  the  Papacy  you 
will  hardly  meet  with  an  honest  man  who  lives  up  to  his  calling  " 
(i.e.  who  performs  his  duties  as  a  married  man).5 

1  Letter  of  George,  in  Hortleder,  "  Von  den  Ursachen  des  deutschen 
Krieges  Karls  V,"  pp.  604,  606.     Denifie,  I2,  p.  126,  n.  3. 

2  Vol.  ii.,  p.  395  f. 

"  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  27,  p.  286.  4  Ibid.,  p.  86. 

5  Ibid.,  p.  210.  The  last  three  passages  are  from  sermons  preached 
by  Luther  at  Wittenberg  in  1528  when  doing  duty  for  Bugenhagen. 


But  enough  of  such  extravagant  assertions,  which  to 
Catholics  stand  self-condemned,  but  were  intended  by 
their  author  to  be  taken  literally.  He  flung  such  wild  say 
ings  broadcast  among  the  masses,  until  it  became  a  second 
nature  with  him.  For  we  must  bear  in  mind  that  grotesque 
and  virulent  misstatements  such  as  the  above  occur  not 
merely  now  and  again,  but  simply  teem  in  his  books, 
sermons  and  conversations.  It  would  be  an  endless  task  to 
enumerate  his  deliberate  falsehoods.  He  declares,  for 
instance,  that  the  Papists,  in  all  their  collects  and  prayers, 
extolled  merely  the  merits  of  the  Saints  ;  yet  this  aspersion 
which  he  saw  fit  to  cast  upon  the  Church  in  the  interests  of 
his  polemics,  he  well  knew  to  be  false,  having  been  familiar 
from  his  monastic  days  with  another  and  better  aspect  of 
the  prayers  he  here  reviles.  He  knew  that  the  merits  of  the 
Saints  were  referred  to  only  in  some  of  the  collects ;  he  knew, 
moreover,  why  they  were  mentioned  there,  and  that  they 
were  never  alleged  alone  but  always  in  subordination  to  the 
merits  and  the  mediation  of  our  Saviour  ("  Per  Dominum 
nostrum  lesum  Christum,'''  etc.). 

A  favourite  allegation  of  Luther's,  viz.  that  the  Church  of 
the  past  had  regarded  Christ  exclusively  as  a  stern  Judge, 
was  crushingly  confuted  in  Denifle's  work.  The  importance 
of  this  brilliant  and  scholarly  refutation  lies  in  the  fact,  that 
it  is  principally  founded  on  texts  and  usages  of  the  older 
Church  with  which  Luther  was  perfectly  familiar,  which, 
for  instance,  he  himself  had  recited  in  the  liturgy  and  more 
especially  in  the  Office  of  his  Order  year  after  year,  and 
which  thus  bear  striking  testimony  against  his  good  faith  in 
the  matter  of  his  monstrous  charge.1 

It  is  a  matter  of  common  knowledge  that,  also  in  other 
branches  of  the  history  of  theology  and  ecclesiastical  life, 
Denifle  has  refuted  with  rare  learning,  though  with  too 
sharp  a  pen,  Luther's  paradoxical  "  lies  "  concerning 
mediaeval  Catholicism.  It  is  to  be  hoped  that  this  may  be 
followed  by  other  well-grounded  and  impartial  comments 
from  the  pen  of  other  writers,  for,  in  spite  of  their  monstrous 

1  "  Luther,"  I2,  p.  400  ff.  We  may  discount  the  objection  of 
Protestant  controversialists  who  plead  that  Luther  at  least  described 
correctly  the  popular  notions  of  Catholics.  The  popular  works  then  in 
use,  handbooks  and  sermons  for  the  instruction  of  the  people,  prayer- 
books,  booklets  for  use  in  trials  and  at  the  hour  of  death,  etc.,  give 
a  picture  of  the  then  popular  piety,  and  the  best  refutation  of  Luther's 

104          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

character,  some  of  Luther's  accusations  still  live,  partly  no 
doubt  owing  to  the  respect  in  which  he  is  held.  Some  of 
them  will  be  examined  more  closely  below.  The  principal 
aim  of  these  pages  is,  however,  to  seek  the  psychological 
explanation  of  the  strange  peculiarity  which  manifests  itself 
in  Luther's  intellectual  life,  viz.  the  abnormal  tendency  to 
level  far-fetched  charges,  sometimes  bordering  on  the  insane. 

An  Attempt  at  a  Psychological  Explanation. 

A  key  to  some  of  these  dishonest  exaggerations  is  to  be 
found  in  the  need  which  Luther  experienced  of  arming  him 
self  against  the  Papacy  and  the  older  Church  by  ever  more 
extravagant  assertions.  Realising  how  unjust  and  un 
tenable  much  of  his  position  was,  and  oppressed  by  those 
doubts  to  which  he  often  confessed,  a  man  of  his  temper  was 
sorely  tempted  to  have  recourse  to  the  expedient  of  insisting 
yet  more  obstinately  on  his  pet  ideas.  The  defiance  which 
was  characteristic  of  him  led  him  to  pile  up  one  assertion  on 
the  other  which  his  rhetorical  talent  enabled  him  to  clothe 
in  his  wonted  language.  Throughout  he  was  acting  on 
impulse  rather  than  from  reflection. 

To  this  must  be  added — incredible  as  it  may  appear  in 
connection  with  the  gravest  questions  of  life — his  tendency 
to  make  fun.  Jest,  irony,  sarcasm  were  so  natural  to  him 
as  to  obtrude  themselves  almost  unconsciously  whenever  he 
had  to  do  with  opponents  wrhom  he  wished  to  crush  and  on 
whom  he  wished  to  impose  by  a  show  of  merriment  which 
should  display  the  strength  of  his  position  and  his  comfort 
able  sense  of  security,  and  at  the  same  time  duly  impress  his 
own  followers.  Those  who  looked  beneath  the  surface,  how 
ever,  must  often  have  rejoiced  to  see  Luther  so  often  blunt 
ing  the  point  of  his  hyperboles  by  the  drolleries  by  which 
he  accompanies  them,  which  made  it  evident  that  he  was 
not  speaking  seriously.  To-day,  too,  it  would  be  wrong  to 
take  all  he  says  as  spoken  in  dead  earnest ;  at  the  same  time 
it  is  often  impossible  to  determine  where  exactly  the 
serious  ends  and  the  trivial,  vulgar  jest  begins  ;  probably 
even  Luther  himself  did  not  always  know.  A  few  further 
examples  may  be  given. 

"  In  Popery  we  were  compelled  to  listen  to  the  devil  and  to 
worship  things  that  some  monk  had  spewed  or  excreted,  until  at 
last  we  lost  the  Gospel,  Baptism,  the  Sacrament  and  everything 


else.  After  that  we  made  tracks  for  Rome  or  for  St.  James  of 
Compostella  and  did  everything  the  Popish  vermin  told  us  to  do, 
until  we  came  to  adore  even  their  lice  and  fleas,  nay,  their  very 
breeches.  But  now  God  has  returned  to  us."1 

"  Everywhere  there  prevailed  the  horrid,  pestilential  teaching 
of  the  Pope  and  the  sophists,  viz.  that  a  man  must  be  uncertain 
of  God's  grace  towards  himself  ('  incertum  debere  esse  de  gratia 
Dei  erga  se  ')."2  By  this  doctrine  and  by  their  holiness-by-works 
Pope  and  monks  "  had  driven  all  the  world  headlong  into  hell  " 
for  "  well-nigh  four  hundred  years."3  Of  course,  "  for  a  man  to 
be  pious,  or  to  become  so  by  God's  Grace,  was  heresy  "  to  them  ; 
"  their  works  were  of  greater  value,  did  and  wrought  more  than 
God's  Grace,"4  and  with  all  this  "they  do  no  single  work  which 
might  profit  their  neighbour  in  body,  goods,  honour  or  soul."5 

A.  Kalthoff6  remarks  of  similar  distortions  of  which  Luther 

1  "Werke,"  Erl.  ed..  52,  p.  378. 

2  Cp.  "  Comment,  in  Gal.,"  2,  p.  175.     "  Opp.  lat,  exeg.,"  16,  p.  197 
seq.     Kostlin,  "  Luthers  Theol.,"  22,  p.  218. 

3  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  72,  p.  255.  4  Ibid. 

5  Ibid.,  p.  256.  "  The  Pope's  teaching  and  all  the  books  and 
writings  of  his  theologians  and  decretalists  did  nothing  but  revile 
Christ  and  His  Baptism,  so  that  no  one  was  able  to  rejoice  or  comfort 
himself  therewith  "  ;  this  he  knew,  having  been  himself  fifteen  years 
a  monk.  Ibid.,  192,  p.  151,  in  a  sermon  of  1535,  "  On  Holy  Baptism." 

Even  in  the  learned  disputations  of  his  Wittenberg  pupils  similar 
assertions  are  found  :  The  Papists  have  ever  taught  that  the  powers 
of  man  after  the  Fall  still  remained  unimpaired  ("  adhuc  integras  "),  and 
that  therefore  he  could  fulfil  the  whole  law  ;  doctrines  no  better  than 
those  of  the  Turks  and  Jews  had  been  set  up  ("  non  secus  apud  Turcas  et 
ludceos,"  etc.).  "  Disputationes,"  ed.  Drews,  p.  340. 

And  so  Luther  goes  on  down  to  the  last  sermon  he  preached  at 
Eisleben  just  before  his  death  :  The  Pope  destroyed  Baptism  and  only 
left  works,  tonsures,  etc.,  in  the  Church  (ibid.,  202,  2,  p.  534)  ;  the 
"  purest  monks  "  had  usually  been  the  "  worst  lewdsters  "  (p.  542)  ; 
the  monks  had  done  nothing  for  souls,  but  "  merely  hidden  themselves 
in  their  cells  "  (p.  543)  ;  "  the  monks  think  if  they  keep  their  Rule 
they  are  veritable  saints  "  (p.  532). 

In  his  accusations  against  the  religious  life  we  find  him  making 
statements  which,  from  his  own  former  experience,  he  must  have  known 
to  be  false.  For  instance,  when  he  says,  that,  in  their  hypocritical 
holiness,  they  had  regarded  it  as  a  mortal  sin  to  leave  their  cell  with 
out  the  scapular  ("Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  44,  p.  347;  38,  p.  203;  60, 
p.  270).  Denifle  proves  convincingly  (I2,  p.  54),  that  all  monks  were 
well  aware  that  such  customs,  prescribed  by  the  Constitutions,  were 
not  binding  under  sin,  but  merely  exposed  transgressors  to  punish 
ment  by  their  superiors. — Luther  also  frequently  declared,  that  in  the 
Mass  every  mistake  in  the  ceremonies  was  looked  upon  as  a  mortal  sin, 
even  the  omission  of  an  "  enim  "  or  an  "  ceterni  "  in  the  Canon  (ibid.,  28, 
p.  65),  and  that  the  incorrect  use  of  the  frequently  repeated  sign  of 
the  cross  had  caused  such  apprehension,  that  they  were  "  plagued 
beyond  measure  with  the  Mass  "  (ibid.,  59,  p.  98).  And  yet  his  own 
words  ("  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  6,  p.  164)  show  he  was  aware  that  such 
involuntary  mistakes  were  no  sin  :  "  cum  casus  quispiam  nullum 
peccatum  /uerit." 

6   "  Das  Zeitalter  der  Reformation,"  Jena,  1907,  p.  221. 

106         LUTHER  THE   REFORMER 

was  guilty  :  "  Hardly  anyone  in  the  whole  of  history  was  so 
little  able  to  bear  contradiction  as  Luther  ;  it  was  out  of  the 
question  to  discuss  with  him  any  opinion  from  another  point  of 
view  ;  he  preferred  to  contradict  himself  or  to  assert  what  was 
absolutely  monstrous,  rather  than  allow  his  opponent  even  a 
semblance  of  being  in  the  right." — The  misrepresentation  of 
Catholic  doctrine  which  became  a  tradition  among  Lutheran 
polemics  was  in  great  part  due  to  Luther. — With  equal  skill  and 
moderation  Duke  Anton  Ulrich  of  Brunswick,  in  his  "  Fifty 
Reasons  "  for  returning  to  the  Catholic  Church,1  protests  against 
this  perversion  of  Catholic  doctrine  by  Lutheran  writers.  He 
had  observed  that  arguments  were  adduced  by  the  Lutherans 
to  prove  truths  which  the  Church  does  not  deny  at  all,  whilst 
the  real  points  at  issue  were  barely  touched  upon.  "  For  instance, 
they  bring  forward  a  heap  of  texts  to  prove  that  God  alone  is  to 
be  adored,  though  Catholics  never  question  it,  and  they  teach 
that  it  is  a  sin  of  idolatry  to  pay  divine  worship  to  any  creature." 
"  They  extol  the  merits  of  Christ  and  the  greatness  of  His 
satisfaction  for  our  sins.  But  what  for  ?  Catholics  teach  the 
same,  viz.  that  the  merits  of  Christ  are  infinite  and  that  His 
satisfaction  suffices  to  blot  out  all  the  sins  of  the  world,  and  thus 
they,  too,  hold  the  Bible  doctrine  of  the  appropriation  of  Christ's 
merits  by  means  of  their  own  good  works  (1  Peter  i.  10)." 

Two  things  especially  were  made  the  butt  of  Luther's  extrava 
gant  and  untrue  charges  and  insinuations,  viz.  the  Mass  and  the 
religious  life.  In  his  much  read  Table-Talk  the  chapter  on  the 
Mass  is  full  of  misrepresentations  such  as  can  be  explained  only  by 
the  animus  of  the  speaker.2  Of  religious  he  can  relate  the  most 
incredible  tales.  Thus  :  "  On  the  approach  of  death  most  of 
them  cried  in  utter  despair  :  Wretched  man  that  I  am  ;  I  have 
not  kept  my  Riile  and  whither  shall  I  flee  from  the  anger  of  the 
Judge  ?  Alas,  that  I  was  not  a  sow-herd,  or  the  meanest  creature 
on  earth  !  "3  On  account  of  the  moral  corruption  of  the  Religious 
Orders,  he  declares  it  would  be  right,  "  were  it  only  feasible,  to 
destroy  both  Papacy  and  monasteries  at  one  blow  !  "4  He  is 
fond  of  jesting  at  the  expense  of  the  nuns  ;  thus  he  makes  a 
vulgar  allusion  to  their  supposed  practice  of  taking  an  image  of 
the  Crucified  to  bed  with  them,  as  though  it  were  their  bride 
groom.  He  roundly  charges  them  all  with  arrogance  :  "  The 
nuns  are  particularly  reprehensible  on  account  of  their  pride  ; 
for  they  boast  :  Christ  is  our  bridegroom  and  we  are  His  brides 
and  other  women  are  nothing."5 

1  "  Cinquante  raisons,"  Munich,  1736,  29,  p.  37.  Above,  vol,  iii., 
p.  273,  n.  2.  2  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  395  ff. 

3  Cp.  ibid.,  31,  p.  279.  4  "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  1,  p.  227. 

5  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  52,  p.  430  f. :  "  Yet  how  few  can  ever  have  had 
such  a  thought,  much  less  expressed  it  ?  "  Denifle- Weiss,  172,  p.  774. 
Speaking  of  this  passage,  Denifle  rightly  remarks  :  "I  have  frequently 
pointed  ovit  that  it  was  Luther's  tactics  to  represent  wicked  Catholics 
as  typical  of  all  the  rest."  Here  again  Denifle  might  have  quoted 
Luther  against  Luther,  as  indeed  he  often  does.  In  one  passage 


It  is  putting  the  matter  rather  too  mildly  when  a  Protestant 
historian,  referring  to  the  countless  assertions  of  this  nature, 
remarks,  "  that,  in  view  of  his  habits  and  temper,  some  of 
Luther's  highly  flavoured  statements  call  for  the  use  of  the  blue 
pencil  if  they  are  to  be  accorded  historical  value."1 

Lastly,  we  must  point  to  another  psychological,  or,  more 
accurately,  pathological,  element  which  may  avail  to 
explain  falsehoods  so  glaring  concerning  the  Church  of 
former  times.  Experience  teaches,  that  sometimes  a  man 
soaked  in  prejudice  will  calumniate  or  otherwise  assail  a 
foe,  at  first  from  an  evil  motive  and  with  deliberate  in 
justice,  and  then,  become  gradually  persuaded,  thanks  to 
the  habit  thus  formed,  of  the  truth  of  his  calumnies  and  of 
the  justice  of  his  proceedings.  Instances  of  such  a  thing  are 
not  seldom  met  with  in  history,  especially  among  those 
engaged  in  mighty  conflicts  in  the  arena  of  the  world. 
Injustice  and  falsehood,  not  indeed  entirely,  but  with 
regard  to  the  matter  in  hand,  are  travestied,  become  matters 
of  indifference,  or  are  even  transformed  in  their  eyes  into 
justice  and  truth. 

In  Luther's  case  the  phenomenon  in  question  assumes  a 
pathological  guise.  We  cannot  but  perceive  in  him  a  kind 
of  self-suggestion  by  which  he  imposed  upon  himself. 
Constituted  as  he  was,  such  suggestion  was  possible,  nay 
probable,  and  was  furthermore  abetted  by  his  nervous 
excitement,  the  result  of  his  never-ceasing  struggle.2 

It  is  in  part  to  his  power  of  suggestion  that  must  also 
be  attributed  his  success  in  making  his  disciples  and  followers 
accept  even  his  most  extravagant  views  and  become  in 
their  turn  missioners  of  the  same. 

("  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  172,  p.  412)  Luther  points  out  quite  correctly,  that 
to  make  all  or  even  a  class  responsible  for  the  faults  of  a  few  is  to  be 
guilty  of  injustice. 

1  "  Theol.  Stud,  und  Krit.,"  1908,  p.  580. 

2  "  There  are  passionate  natures  gifted  with  a  strong  imagination, 
who  gradually,   and  sometimes  even  rapidly,  come  to  take  in  good 
faith  that  for  true,   which  their  own  spirit  of  contradiction,   or  the 
desire  to  vindicate  themselves  and  to  gain  the  day,  suggests.     Such  a 
one  was  Luther.   ...  It  was  possible  for  him  to  persuade  himself  of 
things  which  he  had  once  regarded  in  quite  a  different  light."     Thus 
Alb.  M.  Weiss,  "  Luther,"  I2,  p.  424.     Ad.  Hausrath  rightly  character 
ises  much  of  what  Luther  says  that  he  had  learnt  of  Rome  on  his  trip 
thither,  as  the  "  product  of  a  self -deception  which  is  readily  under 
stood  "    ("Luthers   Leben,"    1,   p.    79).      "During   a   quarrel,"    aptly 
remarks    Fenelon,    "  the    imagination    becomes    heated    and    a    man 
deceives  himself." 

108         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

The  New  Theology  of  Lying. 

Another  explanation,  this  time  a  theologieal  one,  of 
Luther's  disregard  for  the  laws  of  truth  is  to  be  found  in  the 
theory  he  set  up  of  the  permissibility  of  lies. 

Previously,  even  in  1517,  he,  like  all  theologians,  had 
regarded  every  kind  of  lie  as  forbidden.  Theologians  of 
earlier  times,  when  dealing  with  this  subject,  usually  agreed 
with  Augustine  and  Peter  Lombard,  the  "  Magister  Sententi- 
arum,"  and  likewise  with  Gratian,  that  all  lies,  even  lies  of 
excuse,  are  forbidden.  After  the  commencement  of  his  public 
controversy,  however,  strange  as  it  may  appear,  Luther 
gradually  came  to  assert  in  so  many  words  that  lies  of  excuse, 
of  convenience,  or  of  necessity  were  not  reprehensible,  but 
often  good  and  to  be  counselled.  How  far  this  view  con 
cerning  the  lawfulness  of  lying  might  be  carried,  remained, 
however,  a  question  to  be  decided  by  each  one  individually. 

Formerly  he  had  rightly  declared  :  A  lie  is  "  contrary  to  man's 
nature  and  the  greatest  enemy  of  human  society  "  ;  hence  no 
greater  insult  could  be  offered  than  to  call  a  man  a  liar.  To  this 
he  always  adhered.  But  besides,  following  St.  Augustine,  he 
had  distinguished  between  lies  of  jest  and  of  necessity  and  lies  of 
detraction.  Not  merely  the  latter,  so  he  declared,  were  unlawful, 
but,  as  Augustine  taught,  even  lies  of  necessity  or  excuse — by 
which  he  understands  lies  told  for  our  own  or  others'  advantage, 
but  without  injury  to  anyone.  "  Yet  a  lie  of  necessity,"  he  said  at 
that  time,  "  is  not  a  mortal  sin,"  especially  when  told  in  sudden 
excitement  "  and  without  actual  deliberation."  This  is  his 
language  in  January,  1517, l  in  his  Sermons  on  the  Ten  Com 
mandments,  when  explaining  the  eighth.  Again,  in  his  con 
troversy  with  the  Zwinglians  on  the  Sacrament  (1528),  he 
incidentally  shows  his  attitude  by  the  remark,  that,  "  when 
anyone  has  been  publicly  convicted  of  falsehood  in  one  par 
ticular  we  are  thereby  sufficiently  warned  by  God  not  to  believe 
him  at  all."2  In  1538,  he  says  of  the  Pope  and  the  Papists,  that, 
on  account  of  their  lies  the  words  of  Chrysippus  applied  to  them  : 
"  If  you  are  a  liar  you  lie  even  in  speaking  the  truth."3 

Meanwhile,  however,  his  peculiar  reading  of  the  Old 
Testament,  and  possibly  no  less  the  urgent  demands  of  his 

1  "  Werke,"    Weim.    ed.,    1,    p.    510    f.  ;     "  Opp.   lat.    exeg.,"    12, 
p.  200  seq. 

2  In  his  "  Vom  Abendmal  Christ!  Bekentnis  "  ("  Werke,"  Weim.  ed., 
26,  p.  241  ff. ;  Erl.  ed.,  30,  p.  152  ff.),  he  frequently  asserts  this  principle. 

"  Si  mentiris,  etiam  quod  verum  dicis  menliris."  "  Werke,"  Erl. 
ed.,  25 2,  p.  214  in  "  Eines  aus  den  hohen  Artikeln  des  Bepstlichen 
Glaubens  genant  Dcmatio  Constantini." 


controversy,  had  exerted  an  unfortunate  influence  on  his 
opinion  concerning  lies  of  convenience  or  necessity. 

It  seems  to  him  that  in  certain  Old-Testament  instances  of 
such  lies  those  who  employed  them  were  not  to  blame.  Abraham's 
lie  in  denying  that  Sarah  was  his  wife,  the  lie  of  the  Egyptian 
rnidwives  about  the  Jewish  children,  Michel's  lie  told  to  save 
David,  appear  to  Luther  justifiable,  useful  and  wholesome.  On 
Oct.  2,  1524,  in  his  Sermons  on  Exodus,  as  it  would  seem  for  the 
first  time,  he  defended  his  new  theory.  Lies  were  only  real  lies 
"  when  told  for  the  purpose  of  injuring  our  neighbour  "  ;  but, 
"  if  I  tell  a  lie,  not  in  order  to  injure  anyone  but  for  his  profit 
and  advantage  and  in  order  to  promote  his  best  interests,  this  is 
a  lie  of  service  "  ;  such  was  the  lie  told  by  the  Egyptian  mid- 
wives  and  by  Abraham  ;  such  lies  fall  "  under  the  grace  of 
Heaven,  i.e.  came  under  the  forgiveness  of  sins  "  ;  such  false 
hoods  "  are  not  really  lies."1 

In  his  lectures  on  Genesis  (1536-45)  the  same  system  has  been 
further  elaborated  :  "  As  a  matter  of  fact  there  is  only  one  kind 
of  lie,  that  which  injures  our  neighbour  in  his  soul,  goods  or 
reputation."  "  The  lie  of  service  is  wrongly  termed  a  lie,  for  it 
rather  denotes  virtue,  viz.  prudence  used  for  the  purpose  of 
defeating  the  devil's  malice  and  in  order  to  serve  our  neighbour's 
life  and  honour.  Hence  it  may  be  called  Christian  and  brotherly 
charity,  or  to  use  Paul's  words  :  Zeal  for  godliness."2  Thus 
Abraham  "  told  no  lie"  in  Egypt  (Gen.  xii.  11  ff.);  what  he  told 
was  "  a  lie  of  service,  a  praiseworthy  act  of  prudence."3 

According  to  his  Latin  Table-Talk  not  only  Abraham's  lie, 
but  also  Michol's  was  a  "  good,  useful  lie  and  a  work  of  charity."4 
A  lie  for  the  advantage  of  another  is,  so  he  says,  an  act  "  by  means 
of  which  we  assist  our  neighbour." 

"  The  monks,"  says  Luther,  "  insist  that  the  truth  should  be 
told  under  all  circumstances."5 — Such  certainly  was  the  teaching 
of  St.  Thomas  of  Aquin,  whose  opinion  on  the  subject  then  held 
universal  sway,  and  who  rightly  insists  that  a  lie  is  never  under 
any  circumstances  lawful.6  St.  Augustine  likewise  shared  this 
monkish  opinion,  as  Luther  himself  had  formerly  pointed  out. 
Long  before  Aquinas's  time  this  Doctor  of  the  Church,  whom 
Luther  was  later  on  deliberately  to  oppose,7  had  brought  his 
view — the  only  reliable  one,  viz.  that  all  untruth  is  wrong— into 
general  recognition,  thanks  to  his  arguments  and  to  the  weight 
of  his  authority.  Pope  Alexander  III,  in  a  letter  to  the  Arch- 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  16,  p.  15  ;   Erl.  ed.,  35,  p.  18.     The  passage 
in  vindication  of  the  Egyptian  midwives  was  not  merely  added  later. 

2  "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  5,  p.  18.  3  Ibid.,  3,  p.  139  seq. 

4  "Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1,  p.  420.     Cp.  Lauterbach,  "Tagebuch," 
p.  85  :    "  Mentiri  et  fallere  differunt,  nam  mendacium  est  falsitas  cum 
studio  nocendi,  fallacia  vero  est  simplex." 

5  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  27,  p.  12,  Sermon  of  Jan.  5,  1528. 

6  "  Sumrna  theol.,"  2-2,  Q.  Ill,  a.  3. 

7  "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  6,  p.  288. 

110          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

bishop  of  Palermo,  declared  that  even  a  lie  told  to  save  another's 
life  was  unlawful  ;  this  statement  was  incorporated  in  the  official 
Decretals — a  proof  of  the  respect  with  which  the  mediaeval  Church 
clung  to  the  truth.1 

Some  few  writers  of  antiquity  had,  it  is  true,  defended  the 
lawfulness  of  lies  of  necessity  or  convenience.  For  instance, 
Origen,  possibly  under  the  influence  of  pagan  philosophy, 
also  Hilary  and  Cassian.  Eventually  their  opinion  disappeared 
almost  completely. 

It  was  reserved  for  Luther  to  revive  the  wrong  view 
concerning  the  lawfulness  of  such  lies,  and  to  a  certain  extent 
to  impose  it  on  his  followers.  Theologically  this  spelt 
retrogression  and  a  lowering  of  the  standard  of  morality 
hitherto  upheld.  "  Luther  here  forsook  his  beloved 
Augustine,"  says  Staudliri,  a  Protestant,  "  and  declared 
certain  lies  to  be  right  and  allowable.  This  opinion,  though 
not  universally  accepted  in  the  Evangelical  Church,  became 
nevertheless  a  dominant  one."2 

1  "  Corp.  iur.  can.,"  ed.  Friedberg,  2,  p.  812.     Yet  a  champion  of 
Luther's   "  truthfulness  "  has  attempted  to  prove  of  Alexander  III, 
that  "  the  objectivity  of  good  was  foreign  to  him,"  and  that  he  taught 
that  the  end  justifies  the  means.    As  K.  Hampe  has  pointed  out  in  the 
"  Hist.  Zeitschr.,"  93,  1904,  p.  415,  the  letter  from  the  Pope  to  Thomas 
Becket   ("  P.L.,"   200,   col.    290),   here  referred  to,   has  been   "  quite 
misunderstood."    The  same  is  the  case  with  a  letter  of  Gregory  VII  to 
Alphoiisus  of  Castile,  which  has  also  been  alleged  to  show  that  a  Pope 
"  had  not  unconditionally  rejected  lying,  nay,  had  even  made  use  of 
it."     Gregory  on  the  contrary  declares  that  even  "  a  lie  told  for  a  pious 
object  and  for  the  sake  of  peace  "  was  a  sin  ("  illud  peccatum  esse  non 
dubitaveris,  in  sacerdotibus  quasi  sacrilegium  coniicias."    "  P.L.,"  148, 
col.  604).     Cp.  Hampe,  ibid.,  p.  385  ff.;    N.  Paulus,  "  Lit.  Beilage  der 
Koln.  Volksztng.,"  1904,  No.  51. 

2  "  N.    Lehrb.    der    Moral,"    Gottingen,     1825,    p.    354.      Sodeur 
("  Luther  und  die  Luge  ")  says  that  in  his  teaching  on  lies  Luther 
led  the  way  to   "a  more  profound  understanding  of  the  problem  " 
(p.   2),  he  taught  us  "to  act  according  to  simple  and  fundamental 
principles  "  ;    "  under  certain  conditions  "  it  became  "  a  duty  to  tell 
untruths,  not   merely  on   casuistic   grounds    as    formerly    [!],  but  'on 
principle  ;    Luther  harked  back  to  the  all  embracing  duty  of  charity 
which  constitutes  the  moral  life  of  the  Christian  "  (p.  30)  ;   he  desired 
"  falsehood   to   be   used   only   to   the   advantage   of   our  neighbour," 
"  referring  our  conduct  in  every  instance  to  the  underlying  principle  of 
charity  "  (p.  32  f.).     Chr.  Rogge,  another  Protestant,  says  of  all  this 
("  Tiirmer,"  Jan.,  1906,  p.  491)  :    "  I  wish  Sodeur  had  adopted  a  more 
decided  and  less  apologetic  attitude." 

W.  Walther,  in  the  article  quoted  above  (p.  81,  n.  1),  admits  that 
Luther  taught  "  in  the  clearest  possible  manner  that  cases  might 
occur  where  a  departure  from  truth  became  the  Christian's  duty.  .  .  . 
It  is  probable  that  many  Evangelicals  will  strongly  repudiate  this 
thesis,  but,  in  our  opinion,  almost  everybody  follows  it  in  practice  "  ; 
if  charity  led  to  untruth  then  the  latter  was  no  evil  act,  and  it  could 


It  must  be  specially  noted  that  Luther  does  not  justify 
lies  of  convenience,  merely  when  told  in  the  interests  of  our 
neighbour,  but  also  when  made  use  of  for  our  own  advantage 
when  such  is  well  pleasing  in  God's  sight.  This  he  states 
explicitly  when  speaking  of  Isaac,  who  denied  his  marriage 
with  Rebecca  so  as  to  save  his  life  :  "  This  is  no  sin,  but  a 
serviceable  lie  by  which  he  escaped  being  put  to  death  by 
those  with  whom  he  was  staying  ;  for  this  would  have 
happened  had  he  said  Rebecca  was  his  wife."1  And  not 
only  the  lawful  motive  of  personal  advantage  justifies, 
according  to  him,  such  untruths  as  do  not  injure  others,  but 
much  more  the  love  of  God  or  of  our  neighbour,  i.e.  regard 
for  God's  honour  ;  the  latter  motive  it  was,  according  to 
him,  which  influenced  Abraham,  when  he  gave  out  that 
Sarah  was  his  sister.  Abraham  had  to  co-operate  in  ac 
complishing  the  great  promise  made  by  God  to  him  and  his 
progeny  ;  hence  he  had  to  preserve  his  life,  "  in  order  that 
he  might  honour  and  glorify  God  thereby,  and  not  give  the 
lie  to  God's  promises."  Many  Catholic  interpreters  of  the 
Bible  have  sought  to  find  expedients  whereby,  without 
justifying  his  lie,  they  might  yet  exonerate  the  great 
Patriarch  of  any  fault.  Luther,  on  the  contrary,  following 

not  be  said  that  Luther  accepted  the  principle  that  the  end  justifies 
the  means.  It  was  not  necessary  for  Walther,  having  made  Luther's 
views  on  lying  his  own,  to  assure  us,  "  that  they  were  not  shared  by 
every  Christian,  not  even  by  every  Evangelical."  As  regards  the  end 
justifying  the  means,  Walther  should  prove  that  the  principle  does  not 
really  underlie  much  of  what  Luther  says  (cp.  also  above,  p.  94  f.).  Cp. 
what  A.  Baur  says,  with  praiseworthy  frankness,  in  a  work  entitled 
"  Johann  Calvin  "  ("  Religionsgeschichtl.  Volksb.,"  Reihe  4,  Hft.  9), 
p.  29,  concerning  the  reformer  of  Geneva  whom  he  extols  :  "  Con 
sciously,  or  unconsciously,  the  principle  that  the  end  justifies  the 
means  became  necessarily  more  and  more  deeply  rooted  in  Calvin's 
mind,  viz.  the  principle  that  the  holy  purpose  willed  by  God  justifies 
the  use  of  means — the  employment  of  which  would  otherwise  appear 
altogether  repugnant  and  reprehensible  to  a  refined  moral  sense — at 
least  when  no  other  way  presents  itself  for  the  attainment  of  the  end. 
To  renounce  the  end  on  account  of  the  means  appeared  to  Calvin  a 
betrayal  of  God's  honour  and  cause."  And  yet  it  is  clear  that  only  a 
theory  which  "  transcends  good  and  evil  "  can  approve  the  principle 
that  the  end  justifies  the  means. 

We  may  add  that,  according  to  Walther  ("Die  Sittlichkeit  nach 
Luther,"  1909,  p.  11  f.),  Luther,  in  view  of  the  exalted  end  towards 
which  the  means  he  used  were  directed,  "  gradually  resolved  "  to  set 
the  law  of  charity  above  that  of  truth  ;  he  did  not,  however,  do  this 
in  his  practical  writings,  fearing  its  abuse  ;  yet  Luther  still  contends 
that  Abraham  was  permitted  to  tell  an  untruth  in  order  "  to  prevent 
the  frustration  of  God's  Will,"  i.e.  from  love  of  God  (ibid.,  p.  13). 

1   "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  6,  p.  289. 

112          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

his  own  arbitrary  interpretation  of  the  Bible,  approves,  nay, 
even  glories  in  the  fault.  "  If,"  he  says,  "  the  text  be  taken 
thus  [according  to  his  interpretation]  no  one  can  be  scandal 
ised  at  it ;  for  what  is  done  for  God's  honour,  for  the  glory 
and  furtherance  of  His  Word,  that  is  right  and  well  done  and 
deserving  of  all  praise."1 

On  such  principles  as  these,  what  was  there  that  Luther 
could  not  justify  in  his  polemics  with  the  older  Church  ? 

In  his  eyes  everything  he  undertook  was  done  for  "  God's 
glory."  "  For  the  sake  of  the  Christian  Church,"  he  was 
ready,  to  tell  "a  downright  lie"  (above,  p.  51)  in  the 
Hessian  affair.  "  Against  the  deception  and  depravity  of 
the  Papal  Antichrist,"  he  regarded  everything  "  as  per 
missible  "  for  the  salvation  of  souls  (above,  p.  95)  ;  more 
over,  was  not  the  war  he  was  waging  part  of  his  divine 
mission  ?  The  public  welfare  and  the  exalted  interests  of 
his  work  might  therefore  at  any  time  call  for  a  violation  of  the 
truth.  Was  he  to  be  deterred,  perhaps,  by  the  injury  his 
opponents  might  thereby  suffer  ?  By  no  means.  They 
suffered  no  real  injury;  on  the  contrary,  it  all  redounded  to 
their  spiritual  good,  for  by  ending  the  reign  of  prejudice 
and  error  their  souls  would  be  saved  from  imminent  peril 
and  the  way  paved  for  the  accomplishment  of  the  ancient 
promises  "  to  the  glory  and  furtherance  of  the  Word." 

We  do  not  mean  to  say  that  Luther  actually  formed  his 
conscience  thus  in  any  particular  instance.  Of  this  we 
cannot  judge  and  it  would  be  too  much  to  expect  from  him 
any  statement  on  the  subject.  But  the  danger  of  his  doing 
so  was  sufficiently  proximate. 

The  above  may  possibly  throw  a  new  light  on  his  famous 
words  :  "  We  consider  everything  allowable  against  the 
deception  and  depravity  of  the  Papal  Antichrist."2 

Luther's  Influence  on  His  Circle. 

Our  remarks  on  Luther  and  lying  would  be  incomplete 
were  we  not  to  refer  to  the  influence  his  example  and  theory 
exercised  on  his  surroundings  and  on  those  who  assisted 
him  in  establishing  the  new  Church  system. 

Melanchthon  not  only  incurred,  and  justly  too,  the  reproach 
of  frequently  playing  the  dishonest  diplomatist,  particularly 

1  "Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  3,  pp.  139-144. 

2  To  Johann  Lang,  Aug.  18,  1520,  above,  p.  95,  n.  3. 


at  the  Diet  of  Augsburg, l  but  even  advocated  in  his  doctrinal 
works  the  Lutheran  view  that  lying  is  in  many  cases  lawful. 

"  The  lie  of  convenience,"  ho  says,  "  is  praiseworthy,  it  is  a 
good  useful  lie  and  proceeds  from  charity  because  one  desires 
thereby  to  help  one's  neighbour."  Hence,  we  may  infer,  where 
the  object  was  to  bring  the  Evangel  home  to  a  man,  a  lie  was 
all  the  less  reprehensible.  Melanchthon  appeals  to  Abraham's 
statement  that  Sarah  was  his  sister  (Gen.  xii.  and  xx.),  and  to 
the  artifice  of  Eliseus  (4  Kings  vi.  19),  but  overlooks  the  fact  that 
these  instances  prove  nothing  in  his  favour  since  there  no  "  neigh 
bour  was  helped,"  but,  on  the  contrary,  untruth  was  dictated 
purely  by  self-love. 2 

During  the  negotiations  carried  on  between  England,  Hesse 
and  Saxony  in  view  of  an  ecclesiastical  understanding,  Melanch 
thon,  at  the  instance  of  the  Elector  of  Saxony,  drew  up  for  him 
and  the  Landgrave,  a  document  to  be  sent  to  Henry  VIII  of 
England,  giving  him  information  concerning  the  Anabaptist  move 
ment.  His  treatment  of  the  matter  has  already  been  referred  to 
(vol.  iii.,  p.  374),  but  it  now  calls  for  more  detailed  consideration. 

In  this  writing  Melanchthon,  to  serve  the  interests  of  the  new 
Evangel,  had  the  courage  to  deny  that  the  movement  had  made 
its  appearance  in  those  parts  of  Germany  "  where  the  pure 
Gospel  is  proclaimed,"  but  was  only  to  be  met  with  "  where  the 
people  are  not  preserved  from  such  errors  by  sound  doctrine," 
viz.  "in  Frisia  and  Westphalia."3  The  fact  is  that  the  Ana 
baptists  were  so  numerous  in  the  Saxon  Electorate  that  we 
constantly  hear  of  prosecutions  being  instituted  against  them. 
P.  Wappler,  for  instance,  quotes  an  official  minute  from  the 
Weimar  archives,  actually  dated  in  1530,  which  states,  that  the 
Elector  "  caused  many  Anabaptists  to  be  punished  and  put  to 
death  by  drowning  and  the  sword,  and  to  suffer  long  terms  of 
imprisonment."4  Shortly  before  Melanchthon  wrote  the  above, 
two  Anabaptists  had  been  executed  in  the  Saxon  Electorate. 
Beyond  all  doubt  these  facts  were  known  to  Melanchthon.  The 
Landgrave  of  Hesse  refused  to  allow  the  letter  to  be  despatched. 
Feige,  his  Chancellor,  pointed  out  the  untruth  of  the  statement, 
"  that  these  errors  only  prevailed  in  places  where  the  pure 
doctrine  was  lacking  "  ;  on  the  contrary,  the  Anabaptist  error 
was  unfortunately  to  be  found  throughout  Germany,  and  even 
more  under  the  Evangel  than  amongst  the  Papists.5  An  amended 
version  of  the  letter,  dated  Sep.  23,  1538,  was  eventually  sent  to 
the  King.  Wappler,  who  relates  all  this  fully,  says  :  "  Melanch 
thon  was  obviously  influenced  by  his  wish  to  warn  the  King  of 
the  '  plague  '  of  the  Anabaptist  heresy  and  to  predispose  him 

1  See  vol.  ii.,  p.  384  ff.          2  "  Corp.  ref.?"  20,  p.  573. 

3  The  document  in  "  Corp.  ref.,"  3,  p.  578. 

4  "  Die    Stellung   Kursachsens    und   des    Landgrafen    Philipp    von 
Hessen  zur  Tauferbewegung,"  Miinster,  1910,  p.  75. 

5  Cp.  Lenz,  "  Briefwechsel  Philipps,"  1,  p.  320. 

IV.— I 

114          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

for  the  '  pure  doctrine  of  the  Evangel.'  '       "  What  lie  said  was 
glaringly  at  variance  with  the  actual  facts."1 

Like  Luther,  Martin  Bucer,  too,  urged  the  Landgrave  to 
tell  a  deliberate  lie  and  openly  deny  his  bigamy.  Though  at 
first  unwilling,  he  had  undertaken  to  advocate  the  Land 
grave's  bigamy  with  Luther  and  had  defended  it  personally 
(above,  p.  28).  In  spite  of  this,  however,  when  complica 
tions  arose  on  its  becoming  public,  he  declared  in  a  letter  of 
1541  to  the  preachers  of  Memmingen,  which  so  far  has 
received  little  attention,  that  the  Landgrave's  wrong  step, 
some  rumours  of  which  had  reached  his  ears,  should  it  prove 
to  be  true,  could  not  be  laid  to  his  charge  or  to  that  of  the 
Wittenbergers.  "  I  declare  before  God  ('  coram  Deo  affirmo  ') 
that  no  one  has  given  the  Prince  such  advice,  neither  I,  nor 
Luther,  nor  Philip,  nor,  so  far  as  I  know,  any  Hessian 
preacher,  nor  has  anyone  taught  that  Christians  may  keep 
concubines  as  well  as  their  wives,  or  declared  himself  ready 
to  defend  such  a  step."2  And,  again  calling  God  to  witness 
("  hcec  ego  ut  coram  Deo  scripta  "),  he  declares  that  he  had 
never  written  or  signed  anything  in  defence  of  the  bigamy.3 
In  the  following  year  he  appeared  before  the  magistrates  of 
Strasburg  and,  in  the  presence  of  two  colleagues,  "  took  God 
to  witness  concerning  the  suspicion  of  having  advised  the 
Landgrave  the  other  marriage,"  "  that  the  latter  had 
consulted  neither  him  nor  any  preacher  concerning  the 
matter  "  ;  he  and  Capito  had  "  throughout  been  opposed 
to  it  "  (the  bigamy),  "  although  his  help  had  been  sought  for 
in  such  matters  by  honourable  and  highly  placed  persons."4 
The  reference  here  is  to  Henry  VIII  of  England,  to  whom, 
however,  he  had  never  expressed  his  disapproval  of  bigamy  ; 
in  fact  he,  like  Capito  and  the  two  Wittenbergers  (above, 
p.  4),  had  declared  his  preference  for  Henry's  taking  an 
extra  wife  rather  than  divorcing  his  first. 

Bucer  (who  had  so  strongly  inveighed  against  Luther's 
lies,  above,  p.  99),  where  it  was  a  question  of  a  Catholic 
opponent  like  the  Augustinian  Johann  Hoffmeister,  had 

1  Loc.  ciL,  p.  74  f. 

2  "  Corp.  ref.,"  10,  p.  156  seq.     N.  Paulus  in  "  Hist.-pol.   Bl.,"  147, 
1911,  p.  509. 

3  "  Quod    defendam    ipsum   f  acinus,    cquidem    nullum    [scriptum] 
scripsi  aut  subscripsi."    Paulus,  ibid.,  p.  511. 

4  F.  W.  Hassenkamp,  "  Hessische  KG.,"  1,  p.  510.     Paulus,  ibid., 
p.  512, 


himself  recourse  to  notorious  calumnies  concerning  this  man, 
whom  even  Protestant  historians  now  allow  to  have  been  of 
blameless  life  and  the  "  greatest  enemy  of  immorality."1 
He  accused  him  of  "  dancing  with  nuns,"  of  "  wallowing  in 
vice,"  and  of  being  "  an  utterly  abandoned,  infamous  and 
dissolute  knave,"  all  of  them  groundless  charges  at  very 
most  based  upon  mere  hearsay.2 — This  same  Bucer,  who 
accused  the  Catholic  Princes  of  being  double-tongued  and 
pursuing  dubious  policies,  was  himself  notorious  amongst 
his  own  party  for  his  wiliness,  deceit  and  cunning. 

Johann  Bugenhagen,  the  Pastor  of  Wittenberg,  when 
called  upon  to  acknowledge  his  share  in  a  certain  question 
able  memorandum  of  a  semi-political  character  also  laid 
himself  open  to  the  charge  of  being  wanting  in  truthfulness 
(vol.  iii.,  p.  74  f.). 

P.  Kalkoff  has  recently  made  clear  some  of  Wolfgang 
Capito's  double-dealings  and  his  dishonest  behaviour, 
though  he  hesitates  to  condemn  him  for  them.  Capito  had 
worked  in  Luther's  interests  at  the  Court  of  Archbishop 
Albert  of  Mayence,  and  there,  with  the  Archbishop's  help, 
"  rendered  incalculable  services  to  the  Evangelical  cause." 
In  extenuation  of  his  behaviour  Kalkoff  says  :  "In  no  way 
was  it  more  immoral  than  the  intrigues  "  of  the  Elector 
Frederick.  On  the  strength  of  the  material  he  has  collected 
J.  Greving  rightly  describes  Capito  as  a  "  thoroughbred 
hypocrite  and  schemer."3  The  dealings  of  this  "  eminent 
diplomatist,"  as  Greving  also  terms  him,  remind  us  only 
too  often  of  Luther's  own  dealings  with  highly  placed 
ecclesiastics  and  seculars  during  the  first  period  of  his 
apostasy.  If,  in  those  early  days,  Luther's  theory  had 
already  won  many  friends  and  imitators,  in  the  thick  of  the 
fight  it  made  even  more  converts  amongst  the  new  preachers, 
men  ready  to  make  full  use  of  the  alluring  principle,  that, 
against  the  depravity  of  the  Papacy  everything  is  licit. 

From  vituperation  to  the  violation  of  truth  there  was  but 
a  step  amidst  the  passion  which  prevailed.  How  Luther's 
abuse — ostensibly  all  for  the  love  of  his  neighbour — infected 
his  pupils  is  plain  from  a  letter  in  the  newly  published 

1  H.  Rocholl,  in  N.  Paulus's  art.  on  the  Catholic  lawyer  and  writer, 
Conrad  Braun  (t!563),  in  "  Hist.  Jahrb."   (14,  1893,  p.  517  ff.),  p.  525. 

2  Paulus,    "Johann   Hoffmeister,"    1891,    p.    206,    and   in    "Hist, 
Jahrb.,"  loc.  cit. 

»  "  Theol.  Rev.,"  1908,  p.  215, 

116          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

correspondence  of  the  Brothers  Blaurer.  This  letter,  written 
from  Wittenberg  on  Oct.  8,  1522,  by  Thomas  Blaurer,  to 
Ulrich  Zasius,  contains  the  following  :  "  Not  even  from  the 
most  filthy  and  shameful  vituperation  [of  the  hateful  Papacy] 
shall  we  shrink,  until  we  see  it  everywhere  despised  and 
abhorred."  What  had  to  be  done  was  to  vindicate  the 
doctrine  that,  "  Christ  is  our  merit  and  our  satisfaction."1 
Luther,  he  says,  poured  forth  abuse  ("  convicia  "),  but  only 
to  God's  glory,  and  for  the  "  salvation  and  encouragement  of 
the  little  ones."2 

4.  Some  Leading  Slanders  on  the  Mediaeval  Church 

Historically  Considered 

"  In  Luther's  view  the  Middle  Ages,  whose  history  was 
fashioned  by  the  Popes,  was  a  period  of  darkest  night.  .  .  . 
This  view  of  the  Middle  Ages,  particularly  of  the  chief 
factor  in  mediaeval  life,  viz.  the  Church  in  which  it  found  its 
highest  expression,  is  one-sided  and  distorted."  Such  is  the 
opinion  of  a  modem  Protestant  historian.  He  is  sorry  that 
false  ideas  of  the  mediaeval  Church  and  theology  "  have  been 
sheltered  so  long  under  the  aegis  of  the  reformer's  name."3 
— "  It  will  not  do,"  a  lay  Protestant  historian,  as  early  as 
1874,  had  told  the  theologians  of  his  faith,  speaking  of 
Kostlin's  work  "  Luthers  Theologie,"  "  to  ignore  the 
contemporary  Catholic  literature  when  considering  Luther 
and  the  writings  of  the  reformers.  ...  It  is  indispensable 
that  the  condition  of  theology  from  about  1490  to  1510 
should  be  carefully  examined.  We  must  at  all  costs  rid 
ourselves  of  the  caricatures  we  meet  with  in  the  writings  of 
the  reformers,  and  of  the  misunderstandings  to  which  they 
gave  rise,  and  learn  from  their  own  writings  what  the 
theologians  of  that  time  actually  thought  and  taught." 
"  Paradoxical  as  it  may  sound,  it  is  just  the  theological  side 
of  the  history  of  the  Reformation  which,  at  the  present 
day,  is  least  known."4 

1  Bd.    1,    1908,    p.    66  :    "  Nullis    conviciis    parcemus    quantumvis 
turpibus  et  ignominiosis,"  etc. 

2  Luther's  friend  Jonas  also  distinguished  himself  in  controversy 
by  the  character  of  the  charges  he  brings  forward  against  his  opponents 
as  true  "  historia."    (See  above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  416,  n.  3.) 

3  W.    Kohler,    "  Luthers   Werden  "    ("  Prot.    Monatshefte,"    1907, 
Hft.  8-9,  p.  292  ff.,  p.  345  ff.,  p.  294). 

1^  *  W.    Maurenbrecher,     "  Studien    und    Skizzen    zur    Gesch,     der 
Reform.,"  pp.  221,  220. 


During  the  last  fifty  years  German  scholars  have  devoted 
themselves  with  zeal  and  enthusiasm  to  the  external  and 
social  aspect  of  the  Middle  Ages.  That  great  undertaking, 
the  "  Monumenta  Germanice  historical  its  periodical  the 
"  Archiv,"  and  a  number  of  others  dealing  largely  with 
mediaeval  history  brought  Protestants  to  a  juster  and  more 
objective  appreciation  of  the  past.  Yet  the  theological,  and 
even  in  some  respects  the  ecclesiastical,  side  has  been  too 
much  neglected,  chiefly  because  so  many  Protestant 
theologians  were  scrupulous  about  submitting  the  subject 
to  a  new  and  unprejudiced  study.  Hence  the  astonishment 
of  so  many  when  Johannes  Janssen,  with  his  "  History  of 
the  German  People,"  and,  to  pass  over  others,  Heinrich 
Denifle  with  his  work  on  Luther  entered  the  field  and 
demonstrated  how  incorrect  had  been  the  views  prevalent 
since  Luther's  time  concerning  the  doctrine  and  the  ecclesi 
astical  life  of  his  age.  Astonishment  in  many  soon  made 
way  for  indignation  ;  in  Denifle's  case,  particularly,  annoy 
ance  was  caused  by  a  certain  attitude  adopted  by  this 
author  which  led  some  to  reject  in  their  entirety  the  theo- 
logico-historical  consequences  at  which  he  arrived,  whilst 
even  Janssen  was  charged  with  being  biassed.  Other 
Protestants,  however,  have  learned  something  from  the 
Catholic  works  which  have  since  made  their  appearance  in 
greater  numbers,  have  acknowledged  that  the  ideas  hitherto 
in  vogue  were  behind  the  times  and  have  invited  scholars  to 
undertake  a  more  exact  study  of  the  materials. 

"  The  later  Middle  Ages,"  says  W.  Friedensburg,  speaking  of 
the  prevailing  Protestant  view,  "  seemed  only  to  serve  as  a  foil 
for  the  history  of  the  Reformation,  of  which  the  glowing  colours 
stood  out  all  the  more  clearly  against  the  dark  background." 
"  As  late  as  a  few  years  ago  the  history  of  the  close  of  the  Middle 
Ages  was  almost  a  '  terra  incognita.'  '  Only  through  Janssen, 
Friedensburg  continues,  "  were  we  led  to  study  more  carefully 
the  later  Middle  Ages  "  and  to  discover,  amongst  other  things, 
that  the  "majority  of  the  people  [sic]  had  not  really  been  so 
ignorant  of  the  truth  of  Christianity,"  that  "the  Church  had  not 
yet  lost  her  power  over  people's  minds,"  that  "  towards  the  end  of 
the  Middle  Ages  the  people  had  already  been  growing  familiar  with 
the  Bible,"  and  that  "  sermons  in  the  vulgar  tongue  had  not  been 
neglected  to  the  extent  that  has  been  frequently  assumed."  This 
author,  like  H.  Bohmer,  characterises  it  as  erroneous  "  to  suppose 
that  Luther  was  the  first  to  revive  regard  for  Paul  and  to  restore 
Paulinism  "  or  "to  insist  upon  the  reform  of  godliness  on  the 
model  of  the  theology  of  Christ."  Coming  to  Denifle,  he  says, 

118          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

that  the  latter  "  on  account  of  his  learning  was  without  a  doubt 
qualified  as  scarcely  any  other  scholar  of  our  time  for  the  task 
he  undertook.  When  he  published  his  '  Luther  '  he  could  look 
back  on  many  years  of  solid  and  fruitful  labour  in  the  field  of 
mediaeval  Scholasticism  and  Mysticism."  From  Denifle's  work 
it  is  clear  that  Luther  was  "  but  little  conversant  with  mediaeval 
Scholasticism,  particularly  that  of  Thomas  Aquinas,"1 

"  Denifle  is  right,"  wrote  Gustav  Kawerau  in  an  important 
Protestant  theological  periodical,  "  and  touches  a  weak  spot  in 
Luther  research  when  he  reproaches  us  with  not  being  sufficiently 
acquainted  with  mediaeval  theology."  An  "  examination  of  the 
Catholic  surroundings  in  which  Luther  moved  "  is,  so  Kawerau 
insists,  essential,  and  Protestants  must  therefore  apply  them 
selves  to  "  the  examination  of  that  theology  which  influenced 

What  is,  however,  imperative  is  that  this  theology  be,  if 
possible,  examined  without  Luther's  help,  i.e.  without,  as  usual, 
paying  such  exaggerated  regard  to  his  own  statements  as  to  what 
influenced  him. 

Luther,  moreover,  does  not  alwrays  speak  against  the  Middle 
Ages  ;  on  occasion  he  can  employ  its  language  himself,  par 
ticularly  when  he  thinks  he  can  quote,  in  his  own  interests, 
utterances  from  that  time.  What  W.  Kb'hler  says  of  a  number 
of  such  instances  holds  good  here  :  "  Luther  fancied  he  recognised 
himself  in  the  Middle  Ages,  that  is  why  his  historical  judgment 
is  so  often  false."  In  point  of  fact,  as  the  same  writer  remarks, 
"  Luther's  idea  of  history  came  from  his  own  interior  experience  ; 
this  occupies  the  first  place  throughout."3  If  for  "  interior 
experience  "  we  substitute  "  subjective  bias  "  the  statement  will 
be  even  more  correct. 

In  returning  here  to  some  of  Luther's  legends  mentioned 
above  (p.  92  f.)  concerning  the  Catholic  past  and  the  religious 
views  then  prevailing,  our  object  is  merely  to  show  by  a  few 
striking  examples  how  wrong  Luther  was  in  charging  the 
Middle  Ages  with  errors  in  theology  and  morals. 

One  of  his  most  frequently  repeated  accusations  was,  that 
the  Church  before  his  day  had  merely  taught  a  hollow 
"  holiness  by  works  "  ;  all  exhortations  to  piety  uttered  by 

1  "  Fortschritte  in  Kenntnis  und  Verstandnis  der  RG."   ("  Schriften 
des  Vereins  fur  RG.,"  No.  100,1910,  pp.  1-59,  pp.  4,  5,  7,8,  10,  12,  16  f.). 
The  author's  standpoint  is  expressed  on  p.   13  :    "  It  is  self-evident 
that  this  does  not  in  any  way  detract  from  Luther's  importance.   .   .   . 
Luther  merely  stands  out  all  the  more  as  the  last  link  of  the  previous 
evolution,"  etc.     On  p.  17  he  declares  that  the  author  of  "  Luther  und 
Luthertum  "  lacked  entirely  the  "  sense  of  truth."     See  the  passage 
from  Bohmer  in  "  Luther  im  Lichte  der  neueren  Forschung,"  2,  1901, 
p.  144. 

2  "  Theol.  Stud,  und  Krit.,"  1908,  p.  581. 

3  "  Luther  und  die  KG.,"  1,  1900,  p.  363. 


preachers  and  writers  insisted  solely  on  outward  good  works ; 
of  the  need  of  cultivating  an  inward  religious  spirit,  interior 
virtues  or  true  righteousness  of  heart  no  one  had  any 

Against  this  we  may  set  a  few  Catholic  statements  made 
during  the  years  shortly  before  Luther's  appearance. 

Gabriel  Biel,  the  "standard  theologian"  of  his  time,  whose 
works  Luther  himself  had  studied  during  his  theological  course, 
in  one  of  his  sermons  distinctly  advocates  the  Church's  doctrine 
against  any  external  holiness-by-works.  Commenting  on  the 
Gospel  account  of  the  hypocrisy  and  externalism  of  the  Pharisees 
and  their  semblance  of  holiness,  he  pauses  at  the  passage  : 
"  Except  your  righteousness  exceed  the  righteousness  of  the 
Scribes  and  Pharisees  ye  shall  not  enter  the  Kingdom  of  Heaven  " 
(Mt.  v.  20).  "  Hence,  if  we  desire  to  be  saved,"  he  says,  "  our 
righteousness  must  not  merely  be  shown  in  outward  works  but 
must  reside  in  the  heart  ;  for  without  the  inward  spirit,  outward 
works  are  neither  virtuous  nor  praiseworthy,  though  the  spirit 
may  be  so  without  outward  works."  After  proving  this  he  again 
insists  :  "  Thus  true  service  of  God  does  not  consist  in  externals  ; 
on  the  contrary  it  is  on  the  inward,  pious  acts  of  the  will  that 
everything  depends,  and  this  presupposes  a  right  judgment  and 
the  recognition  of  the  spirit.  Hence  in  the  practice  of  good 
works  we  must  expend  greater  care  on  the  interior  direction  of 
the  will."  The  learned  preacher  goes  on  fervently  to  exhort  his 
hearers  to  amend  their  lives,  to  be  humble,  to  trust  in  Christ  and 
to  lead  lives  of  real,  inward  piety. 1 

Another  preacher  and  theologian  with  whom  Luther  was  well 
acquainted  was  Andreas  Proles  (f  1503),  the  founder  of  the 
German  Augustinian  Congregation  to  which  Luther  had  once 
belonged.  In  the  sermons  published  by  Petms  Sylvius,  Proles 
insists  upon  the  good  intention  and  interior  disposition  by  which 
works  are  sanctified.  They  are  "  smothered,"  so  he  tells  his 
hearers,  "  if  done  not  out  of  love  for  God  but  with  evil  intent, 
for  instance,  for  the  sake  of  praise,  or  in  order  to  deceive,  or 
again,  if  done  in  sin  or  for  any  bad  purpose."  "  Hence  ...  in 
the  practice  of  all  his  works  a  man  must  diligently  strive  after 
Divine  justice,  after  a  true  faith  with  love  of  God  and  of  his 
neighbour,  after  innocence  and  humility  of  heart,  with  a  good 
purpose  and  intention,  since  every  good  work,  however  insignifi 
cant,  even  a  drink  of  cold  water  given  to  the  meanest  creature 
for  God's  sake,  is  deserving  of  reward  in  eternity.  .  .  .  Without 
charity  neither  faith  nor  good  works  are  profitable  unto  salva 

At  about  that  same  time  the  so-called  "  holiness-by-works 

1  "  Sermo  60  in   Dom.    6   post.    Trin."    ("  Sermones  de  tempore," 
Tubingse,  1500). 

2  "  Sibend  und  Acht  ader  letzte  Sermon,"  Lipsie,   1533.     On  this 
work  cp.  Paulus,  "  Die  deutschen  Dominikaner, "  p.  66,  n.  2. 

120         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

was  also  condemned  by  the  learned  Franciscan  theologian, 
Stephen  Brulefer.  "  Merit,"  so  he  emphasises,  "  depends  not 
on  the  number  of  external  works  but  on  the  zeal  and  charity 
with  which  the  work  is  done  ;  everything  depends  on  the  interior 
act  of  the  will."  Amongst  his  authorities  he  quotes  the  far- 
famed  theologian  of  his  Order,  Duns  Scotus,  who  had  enunciated 
the  principle  with  the  concision  of  the  scholastic  :  "  Deus  non 
pensat  quantum  sed  ex  quanta."1 

"  God  wants,  not  your  work,  but  your  heart."  So  Marquard  of 
Lindau  writes  in  his  "  Buch  der  X  Gepot,"  printed  in  1483. 
Before  this,  under  the  heading  :  "  That  we  must  love  God  above 
all  things,"  he  declares,  that,  whoever  does  not  turn  to  God  with 
his  whole  heart  cannot  merely  by  his  works  gain  Him,  even 
though  he  should  surrender  "  all  his  possessions  to  God  and 
allow  himself  to  be  burnt."2 

Thus  we  find  in  the  writings  of  that  period,  language  by 
no  means  wanting  in  vigour  used  in  denunciation  of  the 
so-called  "  holincss-by- works  "  ;  hence  Luther  was  certainly 
not  first  in  the  field  to  raise  a  protest. 

From  their  preachers,  too,  the  people  frequently  heard 
this  same  teaching. 

Johann  Herolt,  a  Dominican  preacher,  very  celebrated 
at  the  commencement  of  the  15th  century,  points  out 
clearly  and  definitely  in  his  sermons  on  the  Sunday  Epistles, 
that  every  work  must  be  inspired  by  and  permeated  with 
charity  if  man's  actions  are  not  to  deteriorate  into  a  mere 
"  holiness-by-works  "  ;  a  poor  man  who,  with  a  pure 
conscience,  performs  the  meanest  good  work,  is,  according 
to  him,  of  "  far  greater  worth  in  God's  sight  than  the 
richest  Prince  who  erects  churches  and  monasteries  while  in 
a  state  of  mortal  sin  "  ;  the  outward  work  was  of  small 
account.3  Herolt  thus  becomes  a  spokesman  of  "  inward 
ness  "  in  the  matter  of  the  fulfilment  of  the  duties  of  the 
Christian  life  ;4  many  others  spoke  as  he  did. 

Sound  instruction  concerning  "  holiness-by-works  "  and 
the  necessary  "  inwardness  "  was  to  be  found  in  the  most 
popular  works  of  devotion  at  the  close  of  the  Middle  Ages. 

1  "  Reportata  in  qnatiwr  S.  Bonaventurce  sententiarum  libros,  Scoli 
subtilis  secundi,"  Basilese,  1501.    L.  2  d.  5  q.  6. 

2  Bl.     2.      On   the   work,    see   Hasak,    "  Der   christl.    Glaube   des 
deutschen  Volkes  beim  Schluss  des  MA.,"  1868,  p.  67  ff. 

"  Sermones  super  epistolas  dominicales,"  s.  1.  e.  a.  Bl.  51.  N. 
Paulus  quotes  more  of  Herolt's  sayings  in  "  Johann  Herolt  und  seine 
Lehre,  Beitrag  zur  Gesch.  des  religiosen  Volksunterrichts  am  Ausgang 
des  MA."  ("  Zeitschr.  f.  kath.  Theol.,"  26,  1902,  p.  417  ff.,  particularly 
P-  429).  «  Paulus,  ibid.,  pp.  429,  430. 


The  "  Evangelibuch,"  for  instance,  a  sermon-book  with 
glosses  on  the  Sunday  Gospels,  has  the  following  for  those 
who  are  too  much  devoted  to  outward  works  :  "It  matters 
not  how  good  a  man  may  be  or  how  many  good  works  he 
performs  unless,  at  the  same  time,  he  loves  God."  The 
author  even  goes  too  far  in  his  requirements  concerning  the 
interior  disposition,  and,  agreeably  with  a  view  then  held  by 
many,  will  not  admit  as  a  motive  for  love  a  wholesome  fear 
of  the  loss  of  God  ;  he  says  a  man  must  love  God,  simply 
because  "  he  is  the  most  excellent,  highest  and  most  worthy 
Good  ;  .  .  .  for  a  man  filled  with  Divine  love  does  not 
desire  the  good  which  God  possesses,  but  merely  God  Him 
self  "  ;  thus,  in  his  repudiation  of  all  so-called  "  holiness- 
by-works,"  he  actually  goes  to  the  opposite  extreme.1 

Man  becomes  pleasing  to  God  not  by  reason  of  the 
number  or  greatness  of  his  works,  but  through  the  interior 
justice  wrought  in  him  by  grace  ;  such  is  the  opinion  of  the 
Dominican,  Johann  Mensing.  He  protests  against  being 
accused  of  disparaging  God's  grace  because  at  the  same 
time  he  emphasises  the  value  of  works  ;  he  declares  that  he 
exalts  the  importance  of  God's  sanctifying  Grace  even  more 
than  his  opponents  (the  Lutherans)  did,  because,  so  he  says, 
"  we  admit  (what  they  deny,  thereby  disparaging  the  grace 
of  God),  viz.  that  we  are  not  simply  saved  by  God,  but  that 
He  so  raises  and  glorifies  our  nature  by  the  bestowal  of  grace, 
that  we  are  able  ourselves  to  merit  our  salvation  and  attain 
to  it  of  our  own  free  will,  which,  without  His  Grace,  would 
be  impossible.  Hence  our  belief  is  not  that  we  are  led  and 
driven  like  cattle  who  know  not  whither  they  go.  We  say  : 
God  gives  us  His  grace,  faith  and  charity,  at  first  without 
any  merit  on  our  part ;  then  follow  good  works  and  merits, 
all  flowing  from  the  same  Grace,  and  finally  eternal  happiness 
for  such  works  as  bring  down  Grace."2 

This  was  the  usual  language  in  use  in  olden  time,  par 
ticularly  in  the  years  just  previous  to  Luther,  and  it  was  in 
accordance  with  this  that  most  of  the  faithful  obediently 
shaped  their  lives.  If  abuses  occurred— and  it  is  quite  true 
that  we  often  do  meet  with  a  certain  degree  of  formalism  in 
the  customs  of  the  people- — they  cannot  be  regarded  as  the 

1  "  Evangelibuch,"  Augsburg,  1560,  Bl.   15.     Cp.  the  Basle  "  Plen- 
arium,"  1514,  Bl.  25. 

2  "  Errettunge  des  christl.  Bescheydts,"  usw.,  1528,  32,  Bl.  4°,  h.  2. 

122         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

rule  and  were  reproved  by  zealous  and  clear-sighted  church 

A  favourite  work  at  that  time  was  the  "  Imitation  of 
Christ  "  by  Thomas  a  Kempis.  Thousands,  more  par 
ticularly  amongst  the  clergy  and  religious,  were  edified  by 
the  fervent  and  touching  expositions  of  the  author  to 
permeate  all  works  with  the  spirit  of  interior  piety.1  We 
know  how  strongly  he  condemns  formalism  as  exemplified 
in  frequent  pilgrimages  devoid  of  virtue  and  the  spirit  of 
penance,  and  how  he  does  not  spare  even  the  religious  ; 
"  the  habit  and  the  tonsure  make  but  little  alteration,  but 
the  moral  change  and  the  entire  mortification  of  the  passions 
make  a  true  religious."2 

The  practice  of  works  of  charity,  which  at  that  time 
flourished  exceedingly  among  both  clergy  and  laity,  offered 
a  field  for  the  realisation  of  these  principles  of  the  true 
spirit  in  which  good  works  are  to  be  performed.  We  have 
countless  proofs  of  how  the  faithful  in  Germany  despoiled 
themselves  of  their  temporal  goods  from  the  most  sincere 
religious  motives — out  of  love  for  their  neighbour,  or  to 
promote  the  public  Divine  worship — "  for  the  love  of  God 
our  Lord,"  as  a  common  phrase,  used  in  the  case  of 
numerous  foundations,  expresses  it. 

G.  Uhlhorn,  the  Protestant  author  of  the  "  Geschichte  der 
christlichen  Liebestatigkeit,"  also  pays  a  tribute  to  the 
spirit  which  preserved  charity  from  degenerating  into  mere 
"  holiness-by-works."  "  We  should  be  doing  injustice  to  that 
period,"  he  says  of  the  Middle  Ages  generally,  "  were  we  to 
think  that  it  considered  as  efficacious,  i.e.  as  satisfactory, 
mere  external  works  apart  from  the  motive  which  inspired 
them,  for  instance,  alms  without  love."  In  support  he 
quotes  Thomas  of  Aquin  and  Pope  Innocent  III,  remarking, 
however,  that  even  such  alms  as  were  bestowed  without  this 
spirit  of  love  were  regarded,  by  the  standard  authorities,  as 
predisposing  a  man  for  the  reception  of  Grace,  and  as 
deserving  of  temporal  reward  from  God,  hence  not  as 
altogether  "  worthless  and  unproductive."3 

Another  fable  concerning  the  Middle  Ages,  sedulously 
fostered  by  Luther  in  his  writings,  was,  that,  in  those  days 

1   "  De  imitations  Christi,"  I,  15  ;   and  3,  4.          2  Ibid.,  1,  17,  19. 
3  Bd.  2,  Stuttgart,  1884,  p.  143. 


man  had  never  come  into  direct  relations  with  God,  that  the 
hierarchy  had  constituted  a  partition  between  him  and 
Christ,  and  that,  thanks  only  to  the  new  Evangel,  had  the 
Lord  been  restored  to  each  man,  as  his  personal  Saviour  and 
the  object  of  all  his  hopes  ;  Luther  was  wont  to  say  that  the 
new  preaching  had  at  length  brought  each  one  into  touch 
with  Christ  the  Lamb,  Who  taketh  away  our  sin  ; 
Melanchthon,  in  his  funeral  oration  on  Luther,  also  said  of 
him,  that  he  had  pointed  out  to  every  sinner  the  Lamb  in 
Whom  he  would  find  salvation. 

To  keep  to  the  symbol  of  the  Lamb  :  The  whole  Church 
of  the  past  had  never  ceased  to  tell  each  individual 
that  he  must  seek  in  the  Lamb  of  God  purgation  from  his 
guilt  and  confirmation  of  his  personal  love  of  God.  The 
Lamb  was  to  her  the  very  symbol  of  that  confidence  in 
Christ's  Redemption  which  she  sought  to  arouse  in  each 
one's  breast.  On  the  front  of  Old  St.  Peter's,  for  instance, 
the  Lamb  was  shown  in  brilliant  mosaic,  with  the  gentle 
Mother  of  the  Redeemer  on  its  right  and  the  Key-bearer  on 
its  left,  and  this  figure,  in  yet  older  times,  had  been  pre 
ceded  by  the  ancient  "  Agnus  Dei."1 

Every  Litany  recited  by  the  faithful  in  Luther's  day,  no 
less  than  in  earlier  ages  and  in  our  own,  concluded  with  the 
trustful  invocation  of  the  "  Lamb  of  God  "  ;  the  waxen 
"  Agnus  Dei,"  blessed  by  the  Pope,  and  so  highly  prized  by 
the  people,  was  but  its  symbol.2  The  Lamb  of  God  was, 
and  still  is,  solemnly  invoked  by  priest  and  people  in 
the  Canon  of  the  Mass  for  the  obtaining  of  mercy  and 

The  centre  of  daily  worship  in  the  Catholic  Church,  in 
Luther's  day  as  in  the  remoter  past,  was  ever  the  Eucharistic 
Sacrifice.  The  Lamb  of  God,  which,  according  to  Catholic 
belief,  is  there  offered  to  the  Father  under  the  mystic 
elements,  and  mysteriously  renews  the  sacrifice  of  the 
Cross,  was  as  a  well,  daily  opened,  in  which  souls  athirst  for 
God  might  find  wherewith  to  unite  themselves  in  love  and 
confidence  with  their  Redeemer. 

1  See  the  figures  in  Grisar,  "  Analecta  Romana,"  1,  tab.  10-12. 

2  On  the  origin  of  the  waxen  "  Agnus  Dei  "  and  its  connection  with 
the  oldest  baptismal  rite,  see  my  art.  in  the  "  Civilta  Cattolica,"  June 
2,    1907.      From  the  beginning  it  was  a  memorial  of  the  baptismal 
covenant  and  served  as  a  constant  stimulus  to  personal  union  with 

124         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

It  was  Luther  who,  with  cruel  hand,  tore  this  pledge  of  hope 
and  consolation  from  the  heart  of  Christendom.  Inspiring 
indeed  are  the  allusions  to  the  wealth  of  consolation  contained 
in  the  Eucharist,  which  we  find  in  one  of  the  books  in  most  general 
use  in  the  days  before  Luther.  "  Good  Jesus,  Eternal  Shepherd, 
thanks  be  to  Thee  Who  permittest  me,  poor  and  needy  as  I  am, 
to  partake  of  the  mystery  of  Thy  Divine  Sacrifice,  and  feedest 
me  with  Thy  precious  Body  and  Blood  ;  Thou  commandest  me 
to  approach  to  Thee  with  confidence.  Come,  sayest  Thou,  to  Me, 
all  you  that  labour  and  are  burdened,  and  I  will  refresh  you. 
Confiding,  O  Lord,  in  Thy  goodness  and  in  Thy  great  mercy,  I 
come  sick  to  my  Saviour,  hungry  and  thirsty  to  the  Fountain  of 
life,  needy  to  the  King  of  Heaven,  a  servant  to  my  Lord,  a 
creature  to  my  Creator,  and  one  in  desolation  to  my  loving 

The  doctrine  that  the  Mass  is  a  renewal  of  the  Sacrifice  of 
Christ  "  attained  its  fullest  development  in  the  Middle  Ages  "  ; 
thus  Adolf  Franz  at  the  conclusion  of  his  work  "  Die  Messe  im 
deutschen  Mittelalter."  At  the  close  of  the  Middle  Ages  it  was 
the  rule  to  "  direct  the  eyes  of  the  faithful,  during  the  sacrifice 
on  the  altar,  to  the  sufferings  and  death  of  the  Redeemer  in  all 
its  touching  and  thrilling  reality.  At  the  altar  a  mystery  is 
enacted  ;  Christ  suffers  and  dies  ;  the  priest  represents  Him,  and 
every  act  typifies  Christ's  Passion  ;  just  as  He  expired  on  the 
cross  in  actual  fact,  so,  mystically,  He  dies  upon  the  altar."2 
Though  some  writers  of  the  period  dwell  perhaps  a  little  too 
much  on  the  allegorical  sense  then  so  popular  in  explaining  the 
various  acts  of  the  Mass,  yet,  in  their  conviction  that  its  character 
was  sacrificial  and  that  it  truly  re-enacted  the  death  of  Christ, 
they  were  in  perfect  agreement  with  the  past.  In  the  explana 
tions  of  the  Mass  everyone  was  reminded  of  his  union  with  Christ  ; 
and  our  Lord's  sufferings  "  were  brought  before  the  mind  of 
both  priest  and  people  "  ;  by  this  means  the  "  outward  cere 
monial  of  the  Mass  was  made  a  fruitful  source  of  inward  edifica 
tion."  "  The  abundant  mediaeval  literature  on  the  Mass  is  a 
proof  both  of  the  needs  of  the  clergy,  and  of  the  care  displayed 
by  the  learned  and  those  in  authority,  to  instruct  them.  In  this 
matter  the  15th  century  excels  the  earlier  Middle  Ages."3  The 
very  abuses  and  the  formalism  which  Franz  finds  witnessed  to  in 
certain  mediaeval  sermons  on  the  Mass,  chiefly  in  the  matter  of 
undue  stress  laid  on  the  "  fruits  of  the  Mass,"  reveal  merely  an 
over-estimation  on  the  part  of  the  individual  of  his  union  with 
Christ,  or  a  too  great  assurance  of  obtaining  help  in  bodily  and 
spiritual  necessities  ;  of  want  of  fervour  or  of  hope  there  is  not 
the  least  trace. 

It  is  well  worthy  of  note  that  Luther,  if  we  may  believe  what 
he  said  in  a  sermon  in  1532,  even  in  his  monastic  days,  did  not 
prize  or  love  the  close  bond  of  union  established  with  Christ  by 
the  daily  sacrifice  of  the  Mass  :  "  Ah,  bah,  Masses  !  Let  what 

1  "  De  imit.  Christi,"  4,  1,  2. 

2  Freiburg,  i/B.,  1902,  p.  730  f.  3  Ibid.,  p.  737  f. 


cannot  stand  fast  fall.  You  never  cared  about  saying  Mass 
formerly  ;  of  that  I  am  sure.  I  know  it  from  my  own  case  ;  for 
I  too  was  a  holy  monk,  and  blasphemed  my  dear  Lord  miserably 
for  the  space  of  quite  fifteen  years  with  my  saying  of  Masses, 
though  I  never  liked  doing  so,  in  spite  of  being  so  holy  and 

In  spite  of  this  Luther  succeeded  in  bequeathing  to 
posterity  the  opinion  that  it  was  he  who  delivered  people 
from  that  "  alienation  from  God  "  imposed  on  the  world  in 
the  Middle  Ages ;  "  who  broke  down  the  prohibition  of  the 
mediaeval  Church  against  anyone  concerning  himself  on 
his  own  account  with  matters  of  religion  " ;  and  who  gave 
back  "  personal  religion  "  to  the  Christian. 

Were  Protestants  to  bestow  more  attention  on  the 
religious  literature  of  the  Later  Middle  Ages,  such  statements 
would  be  simply  impossible.  One  of  those  best  acquainted 
with  this  literature  writes  :  "  During  the  last  few  months 
the  present  writer  has  gone  carefully,  pen  in  hand,  through 
more  than  one  hundred  printed  and  manuscript  religious 
works,  written  in  German  and  belonging  to  the  end  of  the 
Middle  Ages  :  catechetical  handbooks,  general  works  of 
piety,  confession  manuals,  postils,  prayer-books,  booklets  on 
preparation  for  death  and  German  sermonaries.  In  this 
way  he  has  learnt  from  the  most  reliable  sources  not  only 
how  in  those  days  people  were  guided  to  devout  intercourse 
with  God,  but  also  with  what  fervent  piety  the  faithful  were 
accustomed  to  converse  with  their  Saviour."  Let  Protes 
tants,  he  adds,  at  least  attempt  to  vindicate  their  pet 
assertions  "  scientifically,  i.e.  from  trustworthy  sources."2 

The  relations  between  the  individual  and  God  were  by  no 
means  suppressed  because  the  priesthood  stood  as  an  inter 
mediary  between  the  faithful  and  God,  or  because  ecclesi 
astical  superiors  watched  over  and  directed  public  worship 
and  the  lines  along  which  the  life  of  faith  was  to  move.  If 
the  union  of  the  individual  with  God  was  endangered  by 
such  interference  on  the  part  of  the  clergy,  then  it  was 
endangered  just  as  much  by  Luther,  who  insists  so  strongly 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  202,  2,  p.  407. 

2  N.    Paulus,    "Koln.  Volksztng.,"    1903,    No.    961.      Cp.    Paulus 
"  Der   Katholik,"    1898,    2,    p.    25  :     "  Had   Luther's  intention   been 
merely  to  impress  this  fundamentally  Catholic  message  on  Christen 
dom  [the  trustful  relations  between  the  individual  and  God]  there  would 
never  have  been  a  schism." 

126          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

on  the  preachers  being  listened  to,   and  on  the  ministers 
taking  the  lead  in  things  pertaining  to  God. 

He  teaches,  for  instance  :  "  It  is  an  unsufferable  blasphemy  to 
reject  the  public  ministry  or  to  say  that  people  can  become 
holy  without  sermons  and  Church.  This  involves  a  destruction 
of  the  Church  and  rebellion  against  ecclesiastical  order  ;  such 
upheavals  must  bo  warded  off  and  punished  like  all  other 

The  fact  is,  the  ecclesiastical  order  of  things  to  which  Luther 
attached  himself  more  and  more  strongly  amounted  to  this,  as 
he  declares  in  various  passages  of  his  Table-Talk.  Through  the 
ministers  and  preachers,  as  through  His  servants,  God  speaks  to 
man  ;  through  them  God  baptises,  instructs  and  absolves  ; 
what  the  ministers  of  the  Gospel  say  and  do,  that  God  Himself 
does  through  and  in  us  as  His  instruments.  Whoever  does  not 
believe  this,  Luther  looks  on  as  damned.  In  a  sermon  of  1528, 
speaking  of  the  spiritual  authority  which  intervenes  between 
God  and  man,  he  exclaims  :  "  God  requires  for  His  Kingdom 
pious  Bishops  and  pastors,  through  them  he  governs  His  subjects 
[the  Emperor,  on  the  other  hand,  so  he  had  said,  had  not  even 
to  be  a  Christian  since  the  secular  power  was  all  outward  and 
merely  served  to  restrain  evil-doers].2  If  you  will  not  hearken  to 
these  Bishops  and  pastors,  then  you  will  have  to  listen  to  Master 
Hans  [the  hangman]  and  get  no  thanks  either."3 
(*•  He  uses  similar  language  in  his  sermons  on  Matthew  :  "  God,  by 
means  of  Prophets  and  Apostles,  ministers  and  preachers, 
baptises,  gives  the  sacraments,  preaches  and  consoles  ;  without 
preachers  and  holy  persons,  He  does  nothing,  just  as  He  does  not 
govern  land  and  people  without  the  secular  power."4 

Hence  Luther  shows  himself  very  anxious  to  establish  a  kind 
of  hierarchy.  If  then  he  charges  the  priesthood  of  the  past  with 
putting  itself  between  God  and  man,  it  is  hard  to  see  how  he  is  to 
avoid  a  similar  charge  being  brought  forward  against  himself. 
Moreover,  at  the  bottom  of  his  efforts,  memories  of  his  Catholic 
days  were  at  work,  and  the  feeling  that  an  organised  ministry 
was  called  for  if  the  religious  sentiment  was  not  to  die  out  com 
pletely  among  the  people.  His  practical  judgment  of  the 
conditions  even  appears  here  in  a  favourable  light,  for  instance, 
in  those  passages  where  he  insists  on  the  authority  of  rightly 
appointed  persons  to  act  as  intermediaries  between  God  and 
man,  and  as  vicars  and  representatives  of  Christ.  The  word 
Christ  spoke  on  earth  and  the  word  of  the  preacher,  are, 
he  says,  one  and  the  same  "  re  et  effectu,"  because  Christ  said  : 
"  He  that  heareth  you  heareth  me  "  (Luke  x.  16)  ;  "  God  deals 
with  us  through  these  instruments,  through  them  He  works 
everything  and  offers  us  all  His  treasures."5  Indeed,  "it  is  our 

1  "  Corp.  ref.,"  4,  pp.  737-740. 

2  Cp.  our  vol.  ii.,  p.  297.          3  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  27,  p.  418. 
"  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  45,  p.  184. 

*  M&thesius,  "  Tischreden  "  (Kroker),  p.  186, 

greatest  privilege  that  we  have  such  a  ministry  and  that  God  is  so 
near  to  us  ;  for  he  that  hears  Christ  hears  God  Himself  ;  and  he 
that  hears  St.  Peter  or  a  preacher,  hears  Christ  and  God  Himself 
speaking  to  us."1 

"  We  must  always  esteem  the  spoken  Word  very  highly, 
for  those  who  despise  it  become  heretics  at  once.  The  Pope 
despises  this  ministry"2  [  !  ].  God,  however,  "has  ordained 
that  no  one  should  have  faith,  except  thanks  to  the  preacher's 
office,"  and,  "  without  the  Word,  He  does  no  work  whatever  in 
the  Church."3 

Thus  we  find  Luther,  on  the  one  hand  insisting  upon  an 
authority,  and,  on  the  other,  demanding  freedom  for  the 
interpretation  of  Scripture.  How  he  sought  to  harmonise 
the  two  is  reserved  for  later  examination.  At  any  rate,  it 
is  to  misapprehend  both  the  Catholic  Church  and  Luther's 
own  theological  attitude,  to  say  that  "  independent  study 
of  religious  questions  "  had  been  forbidden  in  the  Middle 
Ages  and  was  "  reintroduced  "  only  by  Luther,  that  he 
removed  the  "  blinkers  "  which  the  Church  had  placed  over 
people's  eyes  and  that  henceforward  "  the  representatives 
of  the  Church  had  no  more  call  to  assume  the  place  of  the 
Living  God  in  man's  regard." 

Luther  also  laid  claim  to  having  revived  respect  for  the 
secular  authorities,  who,  during  the  Middle  Ages,  had  been 
despised  owing  to  the  one-sided  regard  shown  to  the  monks 
and  clergy.  He  declares  that  he  had  again  brought  people 
to  esteem  the  earthly  calling,  family  life  and  all  worldly 
employments  as  being  a  true  serving  of  God.  Boldly  he 
asserts,  that,  before  my  time,  "  the  authorities  did  not 
know  they  were  serving  God  "  ;  "  before  my  time  nobody 
knew  .  .  .  what  the  secular  power,  what  matrimony, 
parents,  children,  master,  servant,  wife  or  maid  really 
signified."  On  the  strength  of  his  assertions  it  has  been 
stated,  that  he  revived  the  "  ideal  of  life  "  by  discovering 
the  "  true  meaning  of  vocation,"  which  then  became  the 
"  common  property  of  the  civilised  world  " ;  on  this  account 
he  was  "  the  creator  of  those  theories  which  form  the  founda 
tion  upon  which  the  modern  State  and  modern  civilisation 

The   fact   is,    however,    the   Church   of   past   ages   fully 

1  Mathesius,  <;  Tischreden  "  (Kroker),  p.  230. 
*  Ibid.,  p.  193,  o  Ibid.,  p.  323, 

128          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

recognised  the  value  of  the  secular  state  and  spheres  of 
activity,  saw  in  them  a  Divine  institution,  and  respected 
and  cherished  them  accordingly. 

A  very  high  esteem  for  all  secular  callings  is  plainly  expressed 
in  the  sermons  of  Johann  Herolt,  the  famous  and  influential 
Nuremberg  Dominican,  whose  much-read  "  Sermones  de  tempore 
et  de  Sanctis  "  (Latin  outlines  of  sermons  for  the  use  of  German 
preachers)  had,  prior  to  1500,  appeared  in  at  least  forty  different 

"It  has  been  asked,"  he  says  in  one  sermon,  "  whether  the 
labour  of  parents  for  their  children  is  meritorious.  I  reply  : 
Yes,  if  only  they  have  the  intention  of  bringing  up  their  children 
for  the  glory  of  God  and  in  order  that  they  may  become  good 
servants  of  Christ.  If  the  parents  are  in  a  state  of  grace,  then  all 
their  trouble  with  their  children,  in  suckling  them,  bathing  them, 
carrying  them  about,  dressing  them,  feeding  them,  watching  by 
them,  teaching  and  reproving  them,  redounds  to  their  eternal 
reward.  All  this  becomes  meritorious.  And  in  the  same  way 
when  the  father  labours  hard  in  order  to  earn  bread  for  his  wife 
and  children,  all  this  is  meritorious  for  the  life  beyond."1 — A 
high  regard  for  work  is  likewise  expressed  in  his  sermon  "  To 
workmen,"  which  begins  with  the  words  :  "  Man  is  born  to 
labour  as  the  bird  is  to  fly."2  Another  sermon  praises  the  calling 
of  the  merchant,  which  he  calls  a  "  good  and  necessary  pro 

Another  witness  to  the  Church's  esteem  for  worldly  callings 
and  employments  is  Marcus  von  Weida,  a  Saxon  Dominican. 
In  the  discourses  he  delivered  on  the  "  Our  Father  "  at  Leipzig, 
in  1501,  he  says  :  "  All  those  pray  who  do  some  good  work  and 
live  virtuously."  For  everything  that  a  man  does  to  the  praise 
and  glory  of  God  is  really  prayer.  A  man  must  always  do  what 
his  state  of  life  and  his  calling  demands.  "  Hence  it  follows  that 
many  a  poor  peasant,  husbandman,  artisan  or  other  man  who 
does  his  work,  or  whatever  he  undertakes,  in  such  a  way  as  to 
redound  to  God's  glory,  is  more  pleasing  to  God,  by  reason  of 
the  work  he  daily  performs,  and  gains  more  merit  before  God 
than  any  Carthusian  or  Friar,  be  he  Black,  Grey  or  White,  who 
stands  daily  in  choir  singing  and  praying."4 

It  is  evident  that  Catholic  statements,  such  as  that  just  quoted 
from  Herolt,  concerning  the  care  of  children  being  well-pleasing 
to  God,  have  been  overlooked  by  those  who  extol  Luther  as 
having  been  the  first  to  discover  and  teach,  that  even  to  rock 
children's  cradles  and  wash  their  swaddling  clothes  is  a  noble, 
Christian  work.  What  is,  however,  most  curious  is  the  assur 
ance  with  which  Luther  himself  claimed  the  merit  of  this  dis 
covery,  in  connection  with  his  teaching  on  marriage. 

The    Carthusian,    Erhard    Gross,    speaks    very    finely   of    the 

1   "  Sermo  25  de  tempore."          2  "  Sermo  55  de  tempore." 

3  "  Sermones  super  epistolas  dominicales."     Sermo  15. 

4  "  Eine  nutzliche  Lere,"  usw.,  Leipzig,  1502,  c.  1. 


different  secular  callings  and  states  of  life,  and  assigns  to  them 
an  eminently  honourable  place  :  "  What  are  the  little  precious 
stones  in  Christ's  crown  but  the  various  classes  of  the  Christian 
people,  who  adorn  the  head  of  Christ  ?  For  He  is  our  Head  and 
all  the  Christian  people  are  His  Body  for  ever  and  ever.  Hence, 
amongst  the  ornaments  of  the  house  of  God  some  must  be 
virgins,  others  widows,  some  married  and  others  chaste,  such  as 
monks,  priests  and  nuns.  Nor  are  these  all,  for  we  have  also 
Princes,  Kings  and  Prelates  who  rule  the  commonwealth,  those 
who  provide  for  the  needs  of  the  body,  as,  for  instance,  husband 
men  and  fishermen,  tailors  and  merchants,  bakers  and  shoe 
makers,  and,  generally,  all  tradesmen."  If  the  general  welfare  is 
not  to  suffer,  he  says,  each  one  must  faithfully  follow  his  calling. 
"  Therefore  whoever  wishes  to  please  God,  let  him  stick  to  the 
order  [state]  in  which  God  has  placed  him  and  live  virtuously ;  he 
will  then  receive  his  reward  from  God  here,  and,  after  this  life,  in 
the  world  to  come."1 

Although  Luther  must  have  been  well  aware  of  the  views 
really  held  on  this  subject,  some  excuse  for  his  wild  charges 
may  perhaps  be  found  in  his  small  practical  experience,  prior 
to  his  apostasy,  of  Christian  life  in  the  world.  His  poverty 
had  forced  him,  even  in  childhood,  into  irregular  ways  ;  he 
had  been  deprived  of  the  blessings  of  a  truly  Christian 
family-life.  His  solitary  studies  had  left  him  a  stranger  to 
the  active  life  of  good  Catholics  engaged  in  secular  callings  ; 
the  fact  of  his  being  a  monk  banished  him  alike  from  the 
society  of  the  bad  and  impious  and  from  that  of  the  good 
and  virtuous.  Thus  in  many  respects  he  was  out  of  touch 
with  the  stimulating  influence  of  the  world  ;  the  versatility 
which  results  from  experience  was  still  lacking,  when,  in  his 
early  years  at  Wittenberg,  he  began  to  think  out  his  new 
theories  on  God  and  sin,  Grace  and  the  Fall. 

"  Whoever  wishes  to  please  God  let  him  stick  to  the  order 
[state]  in  which  God  has  placed  him."  These  words  of 
Gross,  the  Carthusian,  quoted  above,  remind  us  of  a  com 
parison  instituted  by  Herolt  the  Dominican  between 
religious  Orders  and  the  "  Order  "  of  matrimony.  Com 
mending  the  secular  calling  of  matrimony,  he  says  here, 
that  it  was  instituted  by  God  Himself,  whereas  the  religious 
Orders  had  been  founded  by  men  :  "  We  must  know  that 

1  In  a  "  Novelle,"  published  by  Ph.  Strauch  in  the  "  Zeitschr.  fur 
deutsches  Luthertum,"  29,  1885,  p.  389.  — For  further  particulars  of 
the  respect  for  worldly  callings  before  Luther's  day,  see  N.  Paulus, 
"  Luther  und  der  Beruf  "  ("  Der  Katholik,"  1902,  1,  p  .327  ff.),  and  in 
the  "  Lit.  Beil.  der  Koln.  Volksztng.,"  1903,  No.  20,  p.  148  ;  likewise 
Denifle,  "  Luther,"  I2,  p.  138  ff. 

IV. — K 

130          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

God  first  honoured  matrimony  by  Himself  instituting  it. 
In  this  wise  the  Order  of  matrimony  excels  all  other  Orders 
('  ordo  matrimonialis  prcecellit  olios  ordines  ') ;  for  just  as 
St.  Benedict  founded  the  Black  Monks,  St.  Francis  the 
Order  of  Friars  Minor  and  St.  Dominic  the  Order  of  Friars 
Preacher,  so  God  founded  matrimony."1 

True  Christian  perfection,  according  to  the  ancient  teach 
ing  of  the  Church,  is  not  bound  up  with  any  particular  state, 
but  may  be  attained  by  all,  no  matter  their  profession,  even 
by  the  married. 

Luther,  and  many  after  him,  even  down  to  the  present 
day,  have  represented,  that,  according  to  the  Catholic  view, 
perfection  was  incapable  of  attainment  save  in  the  religious 
life,  this  alone  being  termed  the  "  state  of  perfection."  In 
his  work  "  On  Monkish  Vows  "  he  declares  :  "  The  monks 
have  divided  Christian  life  into  a  state  of  perfection  and  one 
of  imperfection.  To  the  great  majority  they  have  assigned 
the  state  of  imperfection,  to  themselves,  that  of  perfection."2 

As  a  matter  of  fact  the  "  state  of  perfection  "  only  means, 
that,  religious,  by  taking  upon  themselves,  publicly  and 
before  the  Church,  the  three  vows  of  poverty,  chastity  and 
obedience,  bind  themselves  to  strive  after  perfection  along 
this  path  as  one  leading  most  surely  to  the  goal  ;  it  doesn't 
imply  that  they  are  already  in  possession  of  perfection,  still 
less  that  they  alone  possess  it.  By  undertaking  to  follow  all 
their  life  a  Rule  approved  by  the  Church,  under  the  guidance 
of  Superiors  appointed  by  the  Church,  they  form  a  "  state  " 
or  corporation  of  which  perfection  is  the  aim,  and,  in  this 
sense  alone,  are  said  to  belong  to  the  "  state  of  perfection." 
In  addition,  it  was  always  believed  that  equal,  in  fact  the 
highest,  perfection  might  be  attained  to  in  any  state  of  life. 
Though  the  difficulties  to  be  encountered  in  the  worldly 
state  were  regarded  as  greater,  yet  the  conquest  they 
involved  was  looked  upon  as  the  fruit  of  an  even  greater  love 
of  God,  the  victory  as  more  splendid,  and  the  degree  of 
perfection  attained  as  so  much  the  more  exalted. 

It  is  the  love  of  God  which,  according  to  the  constant 
teaching  of  the  Church,  constitutes  the  essence  of  perfection. 

The  most  perfect  Christian  is  he  who  fulfils  the  law  of 
charity  most  perfectly,  and  this — notwithstanding  what- 

1  "  Sermo  25  de  tempore." 

2  "  Cp.  Hist.  Jahrb.,"  27,  1906,  p.  496  ff.  (N.  Paulus  on  O.  Scheel). 


ever  Luther  may  say — according  to  what  has  ever  been  the 
teaching  of  the  Church,  the  ordinary  Christian  may  quite 
well  do  in  his  everyday  calling,  and  in  the  married  as  much 
as  in  the  religious  state.  Even  should  the  religious  follow 
the  severest  of  Rules,  yet  if  he  does  not  make  use  of  the 
more  abundant  means  of  perfection  at  his  command  but 
lives  in  tepidity,  then  the  ordinary  Christian  approaches 
more  closely  than  he  to  the  ideal  standard  of  life  if  only  he 
fulfils  his  duties  in  the  home  with  greater  love  of  God. 

The  Bavarian  Franciscan,  Caspar  Schatzgeyer,  Luther's 
contemporary,  is  right  when  he  says  in  his  work  "  Scru- 
tinium  divince  scriptures  "  :  "  We  do  not  set  up  a  twofold 
standard  of  perfection,  one  for  people  in  the  world  and 
another  for  the  religious.  For  all  Christians  there  is  but  one 
order,  one  mode  of  worshipping  God,  one  evangelical  per 
fection.  .  .  .  But  we  do  say  this,  that  in  cloistral  life  the 
attainment  of  perfection  is  easier,  though  a  Christian  living 
in  the  world  may  excel  all  religious  in  perfection."1  For — 
such  is  the  ground  he  gives  in  a  German  work — "  it  may  well 
happen  that  in  the  ordinary  Christian  state  a  man  runs  so 
hotly  and  eagerly  towards  God  as  to  outstrip  all  religious  in 
all  the  essentials  of  Christian  perfection,  just  as  a  sculptor 
may  with  a  blunt  chisel  produce  a  masterpiece  far  superior 
to  that  carved  by  an  unskilful  apprentice  even  with  the  best 
and  sharpest  of  tools."2 

This  may  suffice  to  elucidate  the  question  of  the  Catholic 
ideal  of  life  in  respect  of  Luther's  statements,  a  question 
much  debated  in  recent  controversies  but  not  always  set  in 
as  clear  a  light  as  it  deserved. 

The  preceding  remarks  on  Luther's  misrepresentations  of 
the  Church's  teaching  concerning  worldly  callings  lead  us 
to  consider  his  utterances  on  the  Church's  depreciation  of 
the  female  sex  and  of  matrimony. 

5.  Was  Luther  the  Liberator  of  Womankind  from 

"  Mediaeval  Degradation  "  ? 

Luther  maintained  that  he  had  raised  the  dignity  of 
woman  from  the  depths  to  which  it  had  fallen  in  previous 
ages  and  had  revived  due  respect  for  married  life.  What 
the  Church  had  defined  on  this  subject  in  the  past  he 

1  Basle,  1522,  B.  1'. 

2  "  Von  dem  waren  christl.  Leben,"  Bl.  C.  3'. 

132          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

regarded  as  all  rubbish.  Indeed,  "not  one  of  the  Fathers," 
he  says,  "  ever  wrote  anything  notable  or  particularly  good 
concerning  the  married  state."1  But,  as  in  the  case  of  the 
secular  authority  and  the  preaching  office,  so  God,  before 
the  coming  of  the  Judgment  Day,  by  His  special  Grace  and 
through  His  Word,  i.e.  through  the  new  Evangel,  had 
restored  married  life  to  its  rightful  dignity,  "as  He  had 
at  first  instituted  and  ordained  it."  Marriage,  so  Luther 
asserts,  had  been  regarded  as  "  a  usage  and  practice  rather 
than  as  a  'thing  ordained  by  God.  In  the  same  way  the 
secular  authorities  did  not  know  that  they  were  serving 
God,  but  were  all  tied  up  in  ceremonies.  The  preaching 
office,  too,  was  nothing  but  a  sham  consisting  of  cowls, 
tonsures,  oilings,"  etc.2 

In  short,  by  his  teaching  on  marriage  he  had  ennobled 
woman,  whereas  the  Catholics  had  represented  matrimony 
as  an  "  unchristian  "  state,  only  permitted  out  of  necessity, 
even  though  they  called  it  a  Sacrament.3 

Conspectus  of  Luther's  Distortion  of  the  Catholic  View  of 


Luther  based  his  charges  chiefly  on  the  canonical  enforce 
ment  of  clerical  celibacy  and  on  the  favour  shown  by  the 
Church  to  the  vow  of  chastity  and  the  monastic  life.  How 
this  proved  his  contention  it  is  not  easy  to  see.  Further,  he 
will  have  it,  that  the  Church  taught  that  true  service  of 
God  was  to  be  found  only  in  the  monastic  state,  and  that 
vows  were  a  sure  warrant  of  salvation — though,  as  a  matter 
of  fact,  neither  Church  nor  theologians  had  ever  said  any 
thing  of  the  sort.4 

In  his  remarks  on  this  subject  in  1527  he  openly  accused  the 
Papists  of  saying  that  "  whoever  is  desirous  of  having  to  do  with 
God  and  spiritual  matters  must,  whether  man  or  woman,  remain 
unmarried,"  and  "  thus,"  so  he  says,  "  they  have  scared  the 
young  from  matrimony,  so  that  now  they  are  sunk  in  fornica 

1   "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  61,  p.  178.  2  Ibid. 

3  What  follows  has,  it  is  true,  no  close  relation  to  "  Luther  and 
Lying  "  ;    the  author  has,  however,  thought  it  right  to  deal  with  the 
matter  here  because  of  the  connection  between  Luther's  misrepresenta 
tions  of  the  Middle  Ages  and  his  calumny  against  Catholic  times,  both 
of  which  were  founded,  not  on  the  facts  of  the  case,  but  on  personal 
grounds.      Cp.  below,  p.  147. 

4  Denifle,  "  Luther  und  Luthertum,"  I2,  p.  71  ff.,  pp.  155,  238,  242. 

5  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  24,  p.  55. 


At  first  Luther  only  ventured  on  the  charge,  that  matrimony 
had  been  "  de  facto  "  forbidden,  though  it  had  not  actually  been 
declared  sinful,  by  the  Pope  ; l  by  forbidding  the  monks  to  marry 
he  had  fulfilled  the  prophecy  in  1  Timothy  iv.  1  ff.,  concerning  the 
latter  times,  when  many  would  fall  away  from  the  faith  and 
forbid  people  to  marry.  "  The  Pope  forbids  marriage  under 
the  semblance  of  spirituality."2  "  Squire  Pope  has  forbidden 
marriage,  because  one  had  to  come  who  would  prohibit  marriage. 
The  Pope  has  made  man  to  be  no  longer  man,  and  woman  to  be 
no  longer  woman."3 

As  years  passed  Luther  went  further  ;  forgetful  of  his  admission 
that  the  Pope  had  not  made  matrimony  sinful,  he  exclaimed  : 
To  him  and  to  his  followers  marriage  is  a  sin.  The  Church  had 
hitherto  treated  marriage  as  something  "non-Christian";4  the 
married  state  she  had  "handed  over  to  the  devil";5  her  theo 
logians  look  down  on  it  as  a  "  low,  immoral  sort  of  life,"6  and  her 
religious  can  only  renounce  it  on  the  ground  that  it  is  a  kind  of 
legalised  "  incontinence."7 

In  reality,  however,  religious,  when  taking  their  vow,  merely 
acted  on  the  Christian  principle  which  St.  Augustine  expresses  as 
follows  :  Although  "  all  chastity,  conjugal  as  well  as  virgina,!, 
has  its  merit  in  God's  sight,"  yet,  "  the  latter  is  higher,  the 
former  less  exalted."8  They  merely  renounced  a  less  perfect 
state  for  one  more  perfect  ;  they  could,  moreover,  appeal  not 
only  to  1  Cor.  vii.  33,  where  the  Apostle  speaks  in  praise  of  the 
greater  freedom  for  serving  God  which  the  celibate  state  affords, 
but  even  to  Luther  himself  who,  in  1523,  had  interpreted  this 
very  passage  in  the  same  sense,  and  that  with  no  little  warmth.9 

His  later  and  still  more  extravagant  statements  concerning 
the  Catholic  view  of  marriage  can  hardly  be  taken  seriously  ;  his 
perversion  of  the  truth  is  altogether  too  great. 

He  says,  that  married  people  had  not  been  aware  that  God 
"  had  ordained  "  that  state,  until  at  last  God,  by  His  special 
Grace,  and  before  the  Judgment  Day,  had  restored  the  dignity 
of  matrimony  no  less  than  that  of  the  secular  authority  and  the 
preaching  office,  "  through  His  Word  [i.e.  through  Luther's 
preaching]."  The  blame  for  this  state  of  things  went  back  very 

1  Cp.  Denifle,  ibid.,  p.  239  f. 

2  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  10,  2,  p.  152  ;   Erl.  ed.,  28,  p.  194.    "  Wyder 
den  falsch  genantten  geystlichen  Standt." 

3  Ibid.,  Weim.  ed.,  14,  p.  157.    4  Ibid.,  24,  p.  123  f.    5  Ibid.,  27,  p.  26. 
6  "  Werke."  Erl.  ed.,  182,  p.  92.  7  Ibid.,  31,  p.  297. 

8  Sermo  343,  n.   7;  Denifle,   I2,  p.    243,  refers  also  to   "  De   bono 
coniugali,"  n.  9,  27,  28. 

9  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  12,  p.  138  f.  :    "  A  married  man  cannot  give 
himself  up  entirely  to  reading  and  prayer,  but  is,  as  St.  Paul  says, 
'  divided  '  and  must  devote  a  great  part  of  his  life  to  pleasing  his 
spouse."     The  Apostle  says  that  though  the  "  troubles  and  cares  of 
the  married  state  are  good,  yet  it  is  far  better  to  be  free  to  pray  and 
attend  to  the  Word  of  God."  — Luther  is  more  silent  concerning  our 
Lord's  own  recommendation  of  virginity  ("  Non  omnes  capiunt  verbum 
istud,   sed  quibus  datum  est,"  etc.,  Mat.  xix.  11  f.).     Of  his  attitude 
towards  voluntary  virginity  we  have  already  spoken  in  vol.  iii.,  246  ff. 

134         LUTHER  THE   REFORMER 

far,  for  the  Fathers,  like  Jerome,  "  had  seen  in  matrimony  mere 
sensuality,"  and  for  this  reason  had  disparaged  it.1 

The  Prophet  Daniel  had  foreseen  the  degradation  of  marriage 
under  the  Papacy  :  It  is  of  the  Papal  Antichrist  "  that  Daniel 
says  [xi.  37],  that  he  will  wallow  in  the  unnatural  vice  which  is 
the  recompense  due  to  contemners  of  God  (Rom.  i.  [27]),  in  what 
we  call  Italian  weddings  and  silent  sin.  For  matrimony  and 
a  right  love  and  use  of  women  he  shall  not  know.  Such  are 
the  horrible  abominations  prevailing  under  Pope  and  Turk."2 
"  The  same  prophet,"  he  writes  elsewhere,  "  says  that  Anti 
christ  shall  stand  on  two  pillars,  viz.  :  idolatry  and  celibacy. 
The  idol  he  calls  Mausim,  thus  using  the  very  letters  which  form 
the  word  Mass."  The  Pope  had  deluded  people,  on  the  one 
hand  by  the  Mass,  and,  on  the  other,  "  by  celibacy,  or  the  un 
married  state,  fooling  the  whole  world  with  a  semblance  of 
sanctity.  These  are  the  two  pillars  on  which  the  Papacy  rests, 
like  the  house  of  the  Philistines  in  Samson's  time.  If  God  chose 
to  make  Luther  play  the  part  of  Samson,  lay  hold  on  the  pillars 
and  shake  them,  so  that  the  house  fall  on  the  whole  multitude, 
who  could  take  it  ill  ?  He  is  God  and  wonderful  are  His  ways."3 

Luther  appeals  expressly  to  the  Pope's  "  books  "  in  which 
marriage  is  spoken  of  as  a  "sinful  state."4  The  Papists,  when 
they  termed  marriage  a  sacrament,  were  only  speaking  "  out  of  a 
false  heart,"  and  trying  to  conceal  the  fact  that  they  really  looked 
on  it  as  "  fornication."5  "  They  have  turned  all  the  words  and 
acts  of  married  people  into  mortal  sins,  and  I  myself,  when  I  was 
a  monk,  shared  the  same  opinion,  viz.  that  the  married  state  was 
a  damnable  state."6 

This  alone  was  wanting  to  fill  up  the  measure  of  his  falsehoods. 
One  wonders  whether  Luther,  when  putting  forward  statements 
so  incredible,  never  foresaw  that  his  own  earlier  writings  might 
be  examined  and  his  later  statements  challenged  in  their  light  ? 
Certainly  the  contradiction  between  the  two  is  patent.  We  have 
only  to  glance  at  his  explanation  of  the  fourth  and  sixth  Com 
mandments  in  his  work  on  the  Ten  Commandments,  published 
in  1518,  to  learn  from  Luther  himself  what  Catholics  really 
thought  of  marriage,  and  to  be  convinced  that  it  was  anything 
but  despised  ;  there,  as  in  other  of  his  early  writings,  Luther 
indeed  esteems  virginity  above  marriage,  but  to  term  the  latter 
sinful  and  damnable  never  occurred  to  him. 

The  olden  Church  had  painted  an  ideal  picture  of  the 
virgin.  By  this,  though  not  alone  by  this,  she  voiced  her 
respect  for  woman,  from  that  Christian  standpoint  which 
differs  so  much  from  that  of  the  world.  From  the  earliest 

1  "  Werke.,"  Erl.  ed.,  61,  p.  178  (Table-Talk). 

2  Ibid.,  64,  p.  155.    From  his  glosses  on  tho  Bible. 

3  Ibid.,  31,  p.  390.    From  the  "  Winckelmesse,"  1534. 

4  Ibid.,  44,  p.  376.  6  Ibid.,  p.  252,  p.  432  ;   cp.  p.  428. 

6  "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  6,  p.  283  :  "  Ipse  ego,  cum  essem  adhuc 
monachus,  idem  sapiebam,  coniugium  esse  damnatum  genus  vitce." 


times  she,  like  the  Gospel  and  the  Apostle  of  the  Gentiles, 
set  up  voluntary  virginity  as  a  praiseworthy  state  of  life. 
Hereby  she  awakened  in  the  female  sex  a  noble  emulation 
for  virtue,  in  particular  for  seclusion,  purity  and  morality — 
woman's  finest  ornaments — and  amongst  men  a  high  re 
spect  for  woman,  upon  whom,  even  in  the  wedded  state,  the 
ideal  of  chastity  cast  a  radiance  which  subdued  the  impulse 
of  passion.  Virgin  and  mother  alike  were  recommended  by 
the  Church  to  see  their  model  and  their  guide  in  the  Virgin 
Mother  of  our  Saviour.  Where  true  devotion  to  Mary 
flourished  the  female  sex  possessed  a  guarantee  of  its 
dignity,  from  both  the  religious  and  the  human  point  of 
view,  a  pledge  of  enduring  respect  and  honour. 

How  the  Church  of  olden  days  continued  to  prize  matri 
mony  and  to  view  it  in  the  light  of  a  true  Sacrament  is 
evident  from  the  whole  literature  of  the  Middle  Ages.  Such 
being  its  teaching  it  is  incomprehensible  how  a  well-known 
Protestant  encyclopaedia,  as  late  as  1898,  could  still  venture 
to  say  :  "As  against  the  contempt  for  marriage  displayed 
in  both  religious  and  secular  circles,  and  to  counteract  the 
immorality  to  which  this  had  given  rise,  Luther  vindicated 
the  honour  of  matrimony  and  placed  it  in  an  entirely 
new  light." 

In  those  days  Postils  enjoyed  a  wider  circulation  than  any 
other  popular  works.  The  Postils,  however,  do  not  teach  "  con 
tempt  of  marriage,"  but  quite  the  contrary.  "  The  Mirror  of 
Human  Conduct,"  published  at  Augsburg  in  1476,  indeed  gives 
the  first  place  to  virginity,  but  declares  :  "  Marriage  is  good  and 
holy,"  and  must  not  be  either  despised  or  rejected  ;  those  who 
"  are  mated  in  matrimony  "  must  not  imagine  that  the  maids 
(virgins)  alone  are  God's  elect ;  "  Christ  praises  marriage,  for 
it  is  a  holy  state  of  life  in  which  many  a  man  becomes  holy,  for 
marriage  was  instituted  by  our  Lord  in  Paradise  "  ;  from  Christ's 
presence  at  the  marriage  at  Cana  we  may  infer  that  "  the  married 
life  is  a  holy  life." 

Other  works  containing  the  same  teaching  are  the  "  Evangeli- 
buch,"  e.g.  in  the  Augsburg  edition  of  1487,  the  "  Postils  on  the 
Four  Gospels  throughout  the  year,"  by  Geiler  of  Kaysersberg 
(f  1510),  issued  by  Heinrich  Wessmer  at  Strasburg  in  1522,  and 
the  important  Basle  "  Plenarium  "  of  1514,  in  which  the  author, 
a  monk,  writes  :  "  The  conjugal  state  is  to  be  held  in  high 
respect  on  account  of  the  honour  done  to  it  by  God  "  ;  he  also 
appends  some  excellent  instructions  on  the  duties  of  married 
people,  concluding  with  a  reference  to  the  story  of  Tobias  "  which 
you  will  find  in  the  Bible  "  (which,  accordingly,  he  assumed  was 
open  to  his  readers). 

136          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

The  "  Marriage-booklets  "  of  the  close  of  the  Middle  Ages 
form  a  literary  group  apart.  One  of  the  best  is  "  Ein  niitzlich 
Lehre  und  Predigt,  wie  sich  zwei  Menschen  in  dem  Sacrament 
der  Ehe  halten  sollen,"  which  was  in  existence  in  MS.  as  early  as 
1456.  "  God  Himself  instituted  marriage,"  it  tells  us,  "  when 
He  said,  '  Be  fruitful  and  multiply  !  '  The  Orders,  however, 
were  founded  by  Bernard,  Augustine,  Benedict  and  Dominic  ; 
thus  the  command  of  God  is  greater  than  that  of  the  teacher," 
i.e.  the  Sacrament  excels  all  Rules  made  by  men,  even  by  Saints. 
It  also  gives  a  touching  account  of  how  marriage  is  founded  on 
love  and  sustained  by  it. 1 

Another  matrimonial  handbook,  composed  by  Albert  von  Eyb, 
a  Franconian  cleric,  and  printed  at  Augsburg  in  1472,  lavishes 
praise  on  "  holy,  divine  matrimony  "  without,  however,  neglect 
ing  to  award  still  higher  encomium  to  the  state  of  virginity. 
Erhard  Gross,  the  Nuremberg  Carthusian,  about  the  middle  of 
the  15th  century,  wrote  a  "  Novel  "  containing  good  advice  for 
married  people.2  The  hero,  who  was  at  first  desirous  of  remain 
ing  unmarried,  declares  :  "  You  must  not  think  that  I  condemn 
matrimony,  for  it  is  holy  and  was  established  by  God."3 

Among  the  unprinted  matrimonial  handbooks  dating  from  the 
period  before  Luther's  time,  and  containing  a  like  favourable 
teaching  on  marriage,  are  the  "  Booklet  on  the  Rule  of  Holy 
Matrimony,"4  "  On  the  Sacrament  of  Matrimony,"5  and  the 
excellent  "  Mirror  of  the  Matrimonial  Order,"  by  the  Dominican 
Marcus  von  Weida.6  Fr.  A.  Ebert,  the  Protestant  bibliographer, 
remarks  of  the  latter's  writings  :  "  They  effectually  traverse 
the  charges  with  which  self-complacent  ignorance  loves  to 
overwhelm  the  ages  previous  to  the  Saxon  Reformation,"  and 
what  he  says  applies  particularly  to  the  teaching  on  marriage.7 

To  come  now  to  the  preachers.  We  must  first  mention  Johann 
Herolt,  concerning  whose  influence  a  recent  Protestant  writer 
aptly  remarks,  that  his  "  wisdom  had  been  listened  to  by  thou 
sands."8  The  passage  already  given,  in  which  he  describes 
marriage  as  an  Order  instituted  by  Christ  (p.  129  f.),  is  but  one 
instance  of  his  many  apt  and  beautiful  sayings.  In  the  very  next 
sermon  Herolt  treats  of  the  preparation  which  so  great  a  Sacra 
ment  demands.  In  the  same  way  that  people  prepare  themselves 
for  their  Easter  Communion,  so  they,  bride  and  bridegroom,  must 
prepare  themselves  for  matrimony  by  contrition  and  confession  ; 
for  "  marriage  is  as  much  a  Sacrament  as  the  Eucharist." 

1  And  yet  a  Protestant  has  said  quite  recently  :    "  The  Church  per 
sistently  taught  that  love  had  nothing  to  do   with  marriage."      As 
though  the  restraining  of  sexual  love  within  just  limits  was  equivalent 
to  the  exclusion  of  conjugal  love. 

2  Ed.  Ph.  Strauch,  "  Zeitschr.  fur  deutsches  Altertum."  29,  1885, 
pp.  373-427.  3  P.  385. 

4  Munich  State  Library,  cod.  germ.,  757.  5  Ibid.,  cod.  756. 

6  Heinemann,    "  Die    Handschriften    der    Herzogl.    Bibliothek    zu 
Wolfenbiittel,"  2,  4,  p.  332  f. 

7  "  t)berlieferungen  zur  Gesch.,"  etc.,  1,  2,  p.  204  f. 

8  "N.  kirchl.  Zeitschr.,"  3,  1892,  p.  487. 


A  similar  view  prevailed  throughout  Christendom. 

One  of  the  most  popular  of  Italian  preachers  was  Gabriel 
Barletta,  who  died  shortly  after  1480.  Amongst  his  writings 
there  is  a  Lenten  sermon  entitled  :  "  De  amore  conjugali  vel  de 
laudibus  mulierum."  In  this  he  speaks  of  the  "  cordial  love  " 
which  unites  the  married  couple.  He  points  out  that  marriage 
was  instituted  in  Paradise  and  confirmed  anew  by  Christ. 
Explaining  the  meaning  of  the  ring,  he  finds  that  it  signifies  four 
things,  all  of  which  tend  to  render  Christian  marriage  praise 
worthy.  He  declares  that  a  good  wife  may  prove  an  inestimable 
treasure.  If  he  dwells  rather  too  much  on  woman's  physical  and 
mental  inferiority,  this  does  not  prevent  him  from  extolling  the 
strength  of  the  woman  who  is  upheld  by  Christian  virtue,  and  who 
often  succeeds  in  procuring  the  amendment  of  a  godless  husband.1 

Barletta,  in  his  sermons,  frequently  follows  the  example  of  his 
brother  friar,  the  English  Dominican  preacher,  Robert  Holkot 
(f  1349),  whose  works  were  much  in  request  at  the  close  of  the 
Middle  Ages. 2  Holkot  had  such  respect  for  Christian  matrimony, 
that  he  applies  to  it  the  words  of  the  Bible  :  "  O  how  beautiful 
is  the  chaste  generation  with  glory  ;  for  the  memory  thereof  is 
immortal."  Since  the  "  actus  matrimonialis  "  was  willed  by 
God,  it  must  be  assumed,  he  says,  that  it  can  be  accomplished 
virtuously  and  with  merit.3  If  the  intention  of  the  married 
couple  is  the  begetting  of  children  for  the  glory  of  God,  they 
perform  an  act  of  the  virtue  of  religion  ;  they  also  exercise  the 
virtue  of  justice  if  they  have. the  intention  of  mutually  fulfilling 
the  conjugal  duties  to  which  they  have  pledged  themselves. 
According  to  him,  mutual  love  is  the  principal  duty  of  the  married 
couple. 4  Franz  Falk  has  dwelt  in  detail  on  the  testimony  borne 
by  the  Late  Middle  Ages  to  the  dignity  of  marriage.8 

1  "  Sermones  Fratris  Barlete,"  Brixie,  1497  and  1498,  several  times 
republished  in  the  16th  century.     See  sermon  for  the  Friday  of  the 
fourth  week  of  Lent. 

2  "  Opus  super  Sapientiam   Salomonis,"  ed.   Hagenau,    1494  (and 
elsewhere),    "  Lectio  "   43   and  44,   on  Marriage.      Cp.   ibid.,    181,   the 
"  Lectio  "  on  the  Valiant  Woman,   and   in   his   work,    "  In  Proverbia 
Salomonis    explanationes,"      Paris,      1510,     "Lectio"     91,    with    the 
explanation  of  Prov.  xii.  4  :    "A  diligent  woman  is  a  crown  to  her 

3  Luther,  on  the  other  hand,  declares  :     "  The  work  of  begetting 
children  was  not  distinguished  from  other  sins,  such  as  fornication  and 
adultery.     But  now  we  have  learnt  and  are  assured  by  the  Grace  of 
God  that  marriage  is  honourable."     "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  7,  p.  116. 

4  On  Barletta  and  Holkot,  cp.  N.  Paulus  in  "  Lit.  Beil.  der  Koln. 
Volksztng.,"    1904,  Nos.  19  and  20  ;    and  his  art.,  "  Die  Ehe  in  den 
deutschen    Postillen   des   ausgehenden   MA.,"    and    "  Gedruckte   und 
Ungedruckte  deutsche  Ehebiichlein  des  ausgehenden  MA.,"  ibid.,  1903, 
Nos.  18  and  20.    See  also  F(alk)  in  "  Der  Katholik,"  1906,  2,  p.  317  ff.  : 
"  Ehe  und  Ehestand  im   MA.,"  and  in  the  work  about  to  be  quoted. 
Denifle,  "  Luther,"  1,  has  much  to  say  of  the  Catholic  and  the  Lutheran 
views  of  marriage. 

5  "  Die  Ehe  am  Ausgange  des  MA.,  Eine  Kirchen-  und  kulturhist. 
Studie,"  1908  ("  Erlaut.  und  Erganz.  zu  Janssens  Gesch.  des  d.  Volkes," 
6,  Hft.  4). 

138          LUTHER  THE   REFORMER 

Commencing  with  the  prayers  of  the  marriage-service  and  the 
blessing  of  the  ring,  the  prayers  for  those  with  child  and  in  child 
bed,  and  for  the  churching  of  women,  he  goes  on  to  deal  with  the 
civil  rights  pertaining  to  the  married  state  and  with  the  Church's 
opinion  as  witnessed  to  in  the  matrimonial  handbooks  and  books 
of  instruction  and  edification.  With  the  respect  for  the  Sacra 
ment  and  the  dignity  of  the  married  woman  there  found  expressed, 
Falk  compares  the  sentiments  likewise  found  in  the  prose 
"  novels  "  and  so-called  "  Volksbucher,"  and,  still  more  practi 
cally  expressed,  in  the  numerous  endowments  and  donations  for 
the  provision  of  bridal  outfits.  "  It  is  quite  incomprehensible," 
such  is  the  author's  conclusion,  "  how  non-Catholic  writers  even 
to  the  present  time  can  have  ventured  to  reproach  the  Church 
with  want  of  regard  for  the  married  state."1  Of  the  information 
concerning  bridal  outfits,  he  says,  for  instance  :  "  The  above 
collection  of  facts,  a  real  '  nubes  testium,'  will  sufficiently  demon 
strate  what  a  task  the  Church  of  the  Middle  Ages  here  fulfilled 
towards  her  servants  and  children.  .  .  .  Many  other  such  founda 
tions  may,  moreover,  have  escaped  our  notice  owing  to  absence 
of  the  deeds  which  have  either  not  been  printed  or  have  perished. 
From  the  16th  century  onwards  records  of  such  foundations 
become  scarce."2 

In  the  "  Internationale  Wochenschrift  "  Heinrich  Finke 
pointed  out  that  he  had  examined  hundreds  of  Late-mediseval 
sermons  on  the  position  of  women,  with  the  result,  that  "it  is 
impossible  to  discover  in  them  any  contempt  for  woman."3  The 
fact  is,  that  "  there  exist  countless  statements  of  the  sanctity  of 
marriage  and  its  sacramental  character  .  .  .  statements  drawn 
from  theologians  of  the  highest  standing,  Fathers,  Saints  and 
Doctors  of  the  Church.  Indeed,  towards  the  close  of  the  Middle 
Ages,  they  grow  still  more  numerous.  The  most  popular  of  the 
monks,  whether  Franciscans  or  Dominicans,  have  left  us  matri 
monial  handbooks  which  imply  the  existence  of  that  simple, 
happy  family  life  they  depict  and  encourage."4  Finke  recalls  the 
15th-century  theologian,  Raymond  of  Sabunde,  who  points  out 
how  union  with  God  in  love  may  be  reproduced  in  marriage. 
Countless  theologians  are  at  one  with  him  here,  and  follow 
Scripture  in  representing  the  union  of  Christ  with  the  Church 
as  an  exalted  figure  of  the  marriage-bond  between  man  and 
wife  (Eph.  v.  25,  32).  Of  the  respect  which  the  ancient  Church 
exhibited  towards  women  Finke  declares  :  "  Never  has  the 
praise  of  women  been  sung  more  loudly  than  in  the  sermons  of 
the  Fathers  and  in  the  theological  tractates  of  the  Schoolmen." 
Here  "  one  picture  follows  another,  each  more  dazzling  than  the 
last."5  Certainly  we  must  admit,  as  he  does,  that  it  is  for  the 
most  part  the  ideal  of  virginity  which  inspires  them,  and  that  it 

1  "  Die  Ehe  am  Ausgange  des  MA.,  Eine  Kirchen-  und  kulturhist. 
Studie,"  1908  ("  Erlaut.  und  Erganz.  zu  Janssens  Gesch.  des  d.  Volkes," 
6,  Hft.  4),  p.  67.  2  Ibid.,  p.  66. 

3   "  Die  Stellung  der  Frau  im  MA.,"  Oct.  1  and  8,  1910,  p.  1253. 

«  Ibid.,  p.  1299.  5  Ibid.,  p.  1248. 


is  the  good,  chaste,  virtuous  wife  and  widow  whom  they  extol, 
rather  than  woman  qua  woman,  as  a  noble  part  of  God's 
creation.  Their  vocation  as  spiritual  teachers  naturally  explains 
this  ;  and  if,  for  the  same  cause,  they  seem  to  be  very  severe  in 
their  strictures  on  feminine  faults,  or  to  strike  harsh  notes  in 
their  warnings  on  the  spiritual  dangers  of  too  free  intercourse 
with  the  female  sex,  this  must  not  be  looked  upon  as  "  hatred  of 
women,"  as  has  been  done  erroneously  on  the  strength  of  some 
such  passages  in  the  case  of  St.  Antoninus  of  Florence  and 
Cardinal  Dominici.1 

"  Just  as  Church  and  Councils  energetically  took  the  side  of 
marriage  "  when  it  was  decried  in  certain  circles,2  so  the  accusa 
tion  of  recent  times  that,  in  the  Middle  Ages,  woman  was  univer 
sally  looked  upon  with  contempt,  cannot  stand  ;  according  to 
Finke  this  was  not  the  case,  even  in  "  ascetical  circles,"  and 
"  still  less  elsewhere."3  The  author  adduces  facts  which  "  utterly 
disprove  any  such  general  disdain  for  woman."4 

The  splendid  Scriptural  eulogy  with  which  the  Church  so 
frequently  honours  women  in  her  liturgy,  might,  one  would 
think,  be  in  itself  sufficient.  To  the  married  woman  who  fulfils 
her  duties  in  the  home  out  of  true  love  for  God,  and  with  zeal  and 
assiduity,  the  Church,  in  the  Mass  appointed  for  the  Feasts  of 

1  Cp.  F.  Schaub,  "  Hist.  Jahrb.,"  26,  1905,  p.  117  ff.,  on  H.  Crohns, 
who,  in  order  to  accuse  St.  Antoninus  and  others  of  "  hatred  of  women," 
appeals  to  the  "  Witches'  Hammer  "  :    "  It  is  unjust  to  make  these 
authors  responsible  for  the  consequences  drawn  from  their  utterances 
by  such  petty  fry  as  the  producers  of  the  '  Witches'  Hammer.'  "     Cp. 
Paulus,  "  Hist.-pol.  Bl.,"  134,  1904,  particularly  p.  812  ff. 

2  Finke,  ibid.,  p.  1249.  3  Ibid.,  p.  1256. 

4  Ibid.,  p.  1258. — Finke's  statements  may  be  completed  by  the 
assurance  that  full  justice  was  done  to  marriage  by  both  theologians 
and  liturgical  books,  and  that  not  merely  "  traces  "  but  the  clearest 
proofs  exist,  that  "  mutual  help  "  was  placed  in  the  foreground  as  the 
aim  of  marriage.  Details  on  this  point  are  contained  in  Denifle's 
"  Luther  und  Luthertum,"  I2,  p.  254  ff.  The  following  remark  by  a 
writer,  so  deeply  versed  in  mediaeval  Scholasticism,  is  worthy  of  note  : 
"  There  is  not  a  single  Schoolman  of  any  standing,  who,  on  this  point 
[esteem  for  marriage  in  the  higher  sense],  is  at  variance  with  Hugo  of 
St.  Victor,  the  Lombard,  or  ecclesiastical  tradition  generally.  Though 
there  may  be  differences  in  minor  points,  yet  all  are  agreed  concerning 
the  lawfulness,  goodness,  dignity  and  holiness  of  marriage  "  (p.  261). 
"  It  is  absolutely  ludicrous,  nay,  borders  on  imbecility,"  he  says  (ibid.) 
with  characteristic  indignation,  "  that  Luther  should  think  it  neces 
sary  to  tell  the  Papists  that  Adam  and  Eve  were  united  according  to 
the  ordinance  and  institution  of  God  "  ("  Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  4,  p.  70). 
He  laments  that  Luther's  assertions  concerning  the  contempt  of 
Catholics  for  marriage  should  have  left  their  trace  in  the  Symbolic 
Books  of  Protestantism  ("Confess.  August.,"  art.  16,  "Symb.  Biicher  10," 
ed.  Miiller-Kolde,  p.  42),  and  exclaims  :  "  Surely  it  is  time  for  such 
rubbish  to  be  too  much  even  for  Protestants."  Jos.  Lohr  ("  Method- 
isch-kritische  Beitr.  zur  Gesch.  der  Sittlichkeit  des  Klerus,  bes.  der 
Erzdiozese  K6ln  am  Ausgang  des  MA.,"  1911,  "  Reformations- 
geschichtl.  Studien  und  Texte,"  Hft.  17,  pp.  77-84)  has  dealt  with 
the  same  matter,  but  in  a  more  peaceful  tone. 

140         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

Holy  Women,  applies  the  words  of  Proverbs  i1  "  The  price  of  the 
valiant  woman  is  as  of  things  brought  from  afar  and  from  the 
uttermost  coasts.  The  heart  of  her  husband  trusteth  in  her  .  .  . 
she  will  render  him  good  and  not  evil  all  the  days  of  her  life. 
She  hath  sought  wool  and  flax  and  hath  wrought  by  the  counsel 
of  her  hands.  .  .  .  Her  husband  is  honourable  in  the  gates  when 
he  sitteth  among  the  senators  of  the  land.  .  .  .  Strength  and 
beauty  are  her  clothing,  and  she  shall  laugh  in  the  latter  day.  She 
hath  opened  her  mouth  to  wisdom.  .  .  .  Her  children  rose  up 
and  called  her  blessed,  her  husband,  and  he  praised  her.  .  .  .  The 
woman  that  feareth  the  Lord,  she  shall  be  praised." — Else 
where  the  liturgy  quotes  the  Psalmist  :2  "  Grace  is  poured 
abroad  from  thy  lips,"  "  With  thy  comeliness  and  thy  beauty 
set  out,  proceed  prosperously  and  reign.  .  .  .  Therefore  God, 
thy  God,  hath  anointed  thee  with  the  oil  of  gladness  above  thy 

It  cannot  be  objected  that  the  ordinary  woman,  in  the  exercise 
of  her  household  duties  and  of  a  humbler  type  of  virtue,  had  no 
part  in  this  praise.  On  the  contrary,  in  honouring  these  Saints 
the  Church  was  at  the  same  time  honouring  all  women  who  had 
not,  by  their  misconduct,  rendered  themselves  unworthy  of 
the  name.  To  all,  whatever  their  rank  or  station,  the  high 
standard  of  the  Saints  was  displayed,  and  all  were  invited  to 
follow  their  example  and  promised  their  intercession.  At  the 
foot  of  the  altar  all  were  united,  for  their  mother,  the  Church, 
showed  to  all  the  same  consideration  and  helpful  love.  The 
honours  bestowed  upon  the  heroines  of  the  married  state  had  its 
influence  on  their  living  sisters,  just  as  the  Church's  "  undying 
respect  for  virginity  was  calculated  to  exercise  a  wholesome 
effect  on  those  bound  by  the  marriage  tie,  or  about  to  be  so 

In  Luther's  own  case  we  have  an  instance  in  the  devotion 
he  showed  in  his  youth  to  St.  Anne,  who  was  greatly  venerated 
by  both  men  and  women  in  late  mediaeval  times.  The  vow  he 
had  made  to  enter  the  cloister  he  placed  in  the  hands  of  this 
Saint.  The  liturgical  praise  to  which  we  have  just  listened,  and 
which  is  bestowed  on  her  in  common  with  other  holy  spouses, 
he  repeated  frequently  enough  as  a  monk,  when  saying  Mass, 
and  the  words  of  the  Holy  Ghost  in  praise  of  the  true  love  of  the 
faithful  helpmate  he  ever  treasured  in  his  memory.4 

1  Prov.  xxxi.  10  f.  :    "  Mulierem  fortcm  quis  inveniet  ?  "  etc.      The 
Lesson  of  the  Mass  De  communi  nee  virginum  nee  martyrum. 
-  The  Gradual  of  the  same  Mass,  taken  from  Psalm  xliv. 

3  Falk,  op.  cit.,  p.  71. 

4  Cp.  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  61,  p.  207  (Table-Talk).    In  his  translation 
of  the  Bible  Luther  quotes  the  German  verse  :    ''  Nought  so  dear  on 
earth  as  the  love  of  woman  to  the  man  who  shares  it "  ("  Werke,"  Erl. 
ed.,  64,  p.  113),  in  connection  with  Proverbs  xxxi.  10  ff.  ("Mulierem 
fortem,"  etc.).     In  the  Table-Talk  he  quotes  the  same  when  speaking 
of  those  who  are  unfaithful  to  their  marriage  vow  in  not  praying  : 
"  People  do  not  pray.     Therefore  my  hostess  at  Eisenach  [Ursula, 
Cunz  Cotta's  wife,  see  vol.  i.,  p.  5  f.,  and  vol.  hi.,  p.  288  f.]  was  right  in 


How  well  Luther  succeeded  in  establishing  the  fable  of  the 
scorn  in  which  the  married  state  was  held  in  the  Middle  Ages  is 
evident  from  several  recent  utterances  of  learned  Protestants. 

One  Church  historian  goes  so  far,  in  his  vindication  of  the 
Reformer's  statements  concerning  the  mediaeval  "  contempt 
felt  for  womankind,"  as  actually  to  lay  the  blame  for  Luther's 
sanction  of  polygamy  on  the  low,  "  mediaeval  view  of  the  nature 
of  matrimony."  Another  theologian,  a  conservative,  fancies 
that  he  can,  even  to-day,  detect  among  "  Romanists  "  the 
results  of  the  mediaeval  undervaluing  of  marriage.  According 
to  Catholics  "  marriage  is  not  indeed  forbidden  to  everyone — 
for  otherwise  where  would  the  Church  find  new  children  ? — but 
nevertheless  is  looked  at  askance  as  a  necessary  evil."  Perfection 
in  Catholic  theory  consists  in  absolute  ignorance  of  all  that 
concerns  marriage.  One  scholar  declares  the  Church  before 
Luther's  day  had  taught,  that  "  marriage  had  nothing  to  do 
with  love  "  ;  "of  the  ethical  task  [of  marriage]  and  of  love  not  a 
trace  is  to  be  found  "  in  the  teaching  of  the  Middle  Ages.  An 
eminent  worker  in  the  field  of  the  history  of  dogma  also  declares, 
in  a  recent  edition  of  his  work,  that,  before  Luther's  day,  marriage 
had  been  "  a  sort  of  concession  to  the  weak  "  ;  thanks  only  to 
Luther,  was  it  "  freed  from  all  ecclesiastical  tutelage  to  become 
the  union  of  the  sexes,  as  instituted  by  God  [his  italics],  and  the 
school  of  highest  morality."  Such  assertions,  only  too  commonly 
met  with,  are  merely  the  outcome  of  the  false  ideas  disseminated 
by  Luther  himself  concerning  the  Church  of  olden  days.  The 
author  of  the  fable  that  woman  and  marriage  were  disdained  in 
the  Middle  Ages  scored  a  success,  of  which,  could  he  have  fore 
seen  it,  he  would  doubtless  have  been  proud. 

Two  publications  by  Professors  of  the  University  of  Witten 
berg  have  been  taken  as  clear  proof  of  how  low  an  opinion  the 
Catholic  Middle  Ages  had  of  woman  and  marriage.  Of  these 
publications  one,  however,  a  skit  on  the  devil  in  Andr.  Mein- 
hardi's  Latin  Dialogues  of  1508 — which,  of  the  two,  would,  in 
this  respect,  be  the  most  incriminating — has  absolutely  nothing 
to  do  with  the  mediaeval  Church's  views  on  marriage,  but  simply 
reproduces  those  of  the  Italian  Humanists,  though  revealing  that 
their  influence  extended  even  as  far  as  Germany.  It  tells  how 
even  the  devil  himself  was  unable  to  put  up  with  matrimony  ; 
since  the  difficulties  of  this  state  are  so  great,  one  of  the  speakers 
makes  up  his  mind  "  never  to  marry,  so  as  to  be  the  better  able 
to  devote  himself  to  study."  Despite  this  the  author  of  the 
Dialogue  entered  the  married  state.  The  other  publication  is  a 
discourse,  in  1508,  by  Christopher  Scheurl,  containing  a  frivolous 
witticism  at  the  expense  of  women,  likewise  due  to  Italian 
influence.  This,  however,  did  not  prevent  Scheurl,  too,  from 

saying  to  me  when  I  went  to  school  there  :  '  There  is  no  dearer  thing 
on  earth  than  the  love  of  woman  to  the  man  on  whom  it  is  bestowed  '  " 
("  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  61,  p.  212).  Luther's  introduction  of  the  phrase 
in  connection  with  the  passage  on  the  "  Mulier  fortis  "  was  an  injustice, 
and  an  attempt  to  prove  again  the  alleged  contempt  of  Catholicism  for 
the  love  of  woman. 

142          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

marrying.1  The  truth  is  that  the  Italian  Humanists'  "  favourite 
subjects  are  the  relations  between  the  sexes,  treated  with  the 
crudest  realism,  and,  in  connection  with  this,  attacks  on  marriage 
and  the  family."2  At  the  same  time  it  cannot  be  denied  that 
individual  writers,  men  influenced  by  anti-clerical  Humanism,  or 
ascetical  theologians  knowing  nothing  of  the  world,  did  some 
times  speak  of  marriage  in  a  manner  scarcely  fair  to  woman  and 
did  occasionally  unduly  exalt  the  state  of  celibacy. 

Against  such  assertions  some  of  Luther's  finest  sayings  on 
woman's  dignity  deserve  to  be  pitted. 

Luther's  Discordant  Utterances  on  the  Value  of  Marriage  in 
his  Sermons  and  Writings. 

Any  objective  examination  of  Luther's  attitude  towards 
woman  and  marriage  must  reveal  the  fact,  that  he  frequently 
seeks  to  invest  Christian  marriage,  as  he  conceived  it,  with  a 
religious  character  and  a  spiritual  dignity.  This  he  does  in 
language  witty  and  sympathetic,  representing  it  as  a  close 
bond  of  love,  though  devoid  of  any  sacramental  character. 
Nor  does  he  hesitate  to  use  the  noble  imagery  of  the  Church 
when  describing  his  substitute  for  the  Christian  marriage 
of  the  past. 

"  It  is  no  small  honour  for  the  married  state,"  he  says  in  a 
sermon  of  1536,  "  that  God  should  represent  it  under  the 
type  and  figure  of  the  unspeakable  grace  and  love  which  He 
manifests  and  bestows  on  us  in  Christ,  and  as  the  surest 
and  most  gracious  sign  of  the  intimate  union  between  Himself 
and  Christendom  and  all  its  members,  a  union  than  which 
nothing  more  intimate  can  be  imagined."3 

In  another  sermon  he  praises  the  edification  provided  in  the 
married  state,  when  "  man  and  wife  are  united  in  love  and  serve 
each  other  faithfully  "  ;  Luther  invites  them  to  thank  God 
"  that  the  married  state  is  profitable  alike  to  body,  property, 
honour  and  salvation."  "  What,  however,  is  best  of  all  in 
married  life,"  so  he  insists,  "  for  the  sake  of  which  everything 
must  be  suffered  and  endured,  is  that  God  may  give  offspring 
and  command  us  to  train  it  in  His  service.  This  is  earth's 
noblest  and  most  priceless  work,  because  God  loves  nothing  so 
well  as  to  save  souls."4 

1  N.  Paulus,  "  Zur  angeblichen  Geringschatzung  der  Frau  und  der 
Ehe  im  MA.,"  in  the  "Wissensch.  Beil.  zur  Germania,"  1904,  Nos.  10 
and  12. 

2  Pastor,  "  Hist,  of  the  Popes  "  (Eng.  Trans.),  5,  p.  119. 

3  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  19Z,  p.  246  f.          *  Ibid.,  162,  p.  536  ff. 


Such  exhortations  of  Luther's,  apart  from  peculiarities  of 
expression,  differ  from  those  of  earlier  writers  only  in  that  those 
authors,  relying  on  the  traditional,  sacramental  conception  of  the 
matrimonial  union,  had  an  even  greater  right  to  eulogise  marriage 
and  the  blessing  of  children. 

Catholic  preachers  might  quite  profitably  have  made  use  of 
the  greater  part  of  a  wedding  discourse  delivered  by  Luther  in 
1531, J  though  they  might  have  failed  to  emulate  the  force  and 
emphasis  with  which  it  was  uttered.  His  theme  there  is  "  that 
marriage  is  to  be  held  in  honour  "  ;  he  quotes  Hebr.  xiii.  4, 
"  Marriage  is  honourable  in  all,  and  the  bed  undefiled  "  ;  he 
continues  :  "  It  is  true  that  our  flesh  is  full  of  evil  lusts  which 
entice  us  to  sin,  but  to  these  we  must  not  consent  ;  if,  however, 
you  hold  fast  to  the  Word  of  God  and  see  to  it,  that  this  state 
is  blessed  and  adorned,  this  will  preserve  and  comfort  you,  and 
make  of  it  a  holy  state  for  you." 2  It  was  necessary,  he  continues, 
not  merely  to  fight  against  any  sensual  lusts  outside  of  the 
marriage  bond,  but  also  to  cultivate  virtue.  Conjugal  fidelity 
must  be  preserved  all  the  more  carefully  since  "  Satan  is  your 
enemy  and  your  flesh  wanton."  "  Fornication  and  adultery  are 
the  real  stains  which  defile  the  marriage  bed."  "  Married 
persons  are  embraced  in  the  Word  of  God."  This  they  must  take 
as  their  guide,  otherwise  (here  Luther's  language  ceases  to  be  a 
pattern)  "  the  bed  is  soiled,  and,  practically,  they  might  as  well 
have  passed  their  motions  in  it."3 

Such  an  emphasising  of  the  religious  side  of  matrimony  almost 
gives  the  impression,  that  Luther  was  following  an  interior 
impulse  which  urged  him  to  counteract  the  effects  of  certain 
other  statements  of  his  on  marriage.  Doubtless  he  felt  the  con 
trast  between  his  worldly  view  of  matrimony  and  the  higher 
standard  of  antiquity,  though  he  would  certainly  have  refused 
to  admit  that  he  was  behindhand  in  the  struggle  against  sensu 
ality.  In  view  of  the  sad  moral  consequences  which  were  bearing 
witness  against  him,  he  was  disposed  to  welcome  an  opportunity 
to  give  expression  to  such  sentiments  as  those  just  described, 
which  tended  to  justify  him  both  to  his  listeners  and  to  himself. 
Nor  were  such  sentiments  mere  hypocrisy  ;  on  the  contrary,  they 
have  their  psychological  place  as  a  true  component  part  of  his 
picture.  On  one  occasion  Luther  bewails  the  want  of  attention 
paid  to  his  excellent  doctrines  :  "  The  teachers  are  there,  but 
the  doers  are  nowhere  to  be  found  ;  as  with  the  other  points  of 
our  doctrine,  there  are  but  few  who  obey  or  heed  us."4 

Not  infrequently,  however,  instead  of  praising  the  dignity 
of  woman  and  the  purity  of  married  life,  Luther  speaks  in 
a  far  from  respectful,  nay,  offensive  manner  of  woman, 
though  without  perhaps  meaning  all  that  his  words  would 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  34,  1,  p.  51  ff. 

2  Ibid.,  p.  58.  3  Ibid.,  pp.  66,  68. 

4  Ibid.,  30,  3,  p.  278  ;    Erl.  ed.,  252,  p.  6.     "  Warnunge  an  seine 
lieben  Deudschen,"  1531. 

144          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

seem  to  convey.  He  thereby  exposes  woman,  in  her 
relations  with  man,  to  the  danger  of  contempt,  and  thus 
forfeits  the  right  of  posing  as  the  defender  of  feminine 
dignity  and  of  the  married  state  against  alleged  detractors 
among  the  Catholics.  His  false  aspersions  on  former  days 
thus  stand  out  in  a  still  more  unpleasant  light. 

In  a  sermon  of  1524,  where  it  is  true  he  has  some  fine 
words  on  the  indulgent  treatment  to  be  meted  out  to  the 
wife,  he  says  :  St.  Peter  calls  woman  the  "  weaker  vessel  " 
(1  Peter  iii.  7)  ;  he  "  had  given  faint  praise  to  woman,"  for 
"  woman's  body  is  not  strong  and  her  spirit,  as  a  general  rule, 
is  even  weaker  ;  whether  she  is  wild  or  mild  depends  on 
God's  choice  of  man's  helpmate.  Woman  is  half  a  child  ; 
whoever  takes  a  wife  must  look  upon  himself  as  the  guardian 
of  a  child.  .  .  .  She  is  also  a  crazy  beast.  Recognise  her  weak 
ness.  If  she  does  not  always  follow  the  straight  path,  bear 
with  her  frailty.  A  woman  will  ever  remain  a  woman. 
.  .  .  But  the  married  state  is  nevertheless  the  best,  because 
God  is  there  with  His  Word  and  Work  and  Cross."1 

With  those  who  complain  of  the  sufferings  of  the  mother 
in  pregnancy  and  childbirth  he  is  very  angry,  and,  in  one 
sermon,  goes  so  far  as  to  say  :  "  Even  though  they  grow 
weary  and  wear  themselves  out  with  child-bearing,  that  is 
of  no  consequence  ;  let  them  go  on  bearing  children  till  they 
die,  that  is  what  they  are  there  for."2 

His  description  of  marriage  "as  an  outward,  material 
thing,  like  any  other  worldly  business,3  was  certainly  not 
calculated  to  raise  its  repute  ;  and  in  the  same  passage  he 
proceeds  :  "  Just  as  I  may  eat  and  drink,  sleep  and  walk, 
ride,  talk  and  do  business  with  a  heathen  or  a  Jew,  a  Turk 
or  a  heretic,  so  also  I  may  contract  marriage  with  him."4 

Matrimonial  cases  had  formerly  belonged  to  the  ecclesi 
astical  courts,  but  Luther  now  drives  the  parties  concerned 
to  the  secular  judge,  telling  them  that  he  will  give  them  "  a 
good  hog,"  i.e.  a  sound  trouncing,  for  having  sought  to 
"  involve  and  entangle  him  in  such  matters  "  which  "  really 
concerned  the  secular  authority."5  "Marriage  questions," 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  15,  p.  420. 

2  Ibid.,  Erl.  ed.,  162,  p.  538. 

3  Ibid.,  Weim.  ed.,  10,  2,  p.  283  ;   Erl.  ed.,  162,  p.  519.    Cp.  present 
work,  vol.  iii.,  p.  263  and  p.  241  ff. 

*  Ibid.,  Erl.  ed.,  61,  p.  205  (Table-Talk). 

5  Cp.  the  passages  in  the  Table-Talk  on  marriage  and  on  women, 
"  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  61,  pp.  182-213,  and  57,  pp.  270-273. 


he  says,  "  do  not  touch  the  conscience,  but  come  within  the 
province  of  the  secular  judge."1  Previously,  parties  whose 
rights  had  been  infringed  were  able  to  seek  redress  from 
the  ecclesiastical  tribunals,  the  sentences  of  which  were 
enforced  by  Canon  Law  under  spiritual  penalties,  to  the 
advantage  of  the  injured  party.  Luther,  on  the  other  hand, 
after  having  secularised  marriage,  finds  himself  unable  to 
cope  with  the  flood  of  people  clamouring  for  justice  :  "I  am 
tired  of  them  [the  matrimonial  squabbles]  and  I  have  thrown 
them  overboard  ;  let  them  do  as  they  like  in  the  name  of 
all  the  devils."2  He  is  also  determined  to  rid  the  preachers 
of  this  business  ;  the  injured  parties  are,  he  says,  to  seek 
for  justice  and  protection  "  in  the  latrines  of  the  lawyers  "  ; 
his  own  conduct,  he  hopes,  will  serve  as  a  model  to  the 
preachers,  who  will  now  repel  all  who  solicit  their  help.3 

The  increase  in  the  number  of  matrimonial  misunder 
standings  and  quarrels,  the  haste  with  which  marriage  was 
entered  upon  and  then  dissolved,  particularly  in  the  Saxon 
Electorate  and  at  Wittenberg,  was  not  merely  the  result 
of  the  new  Evangelical  freedom,  as  Luther  and  his  friends 
sadly  admitted,  but  was  due  above  all  to  the  altered 
views  on  marriage.  In  the  new  preaching  on  marriage  the 
gratification  of  the  sensual  impulse  was,  as  will  be  shown 
below,  placed  too  much  in  the  foreground,  owing  partly  to 
the  fanatical  reaction  against  clerical  celibacy  and  religious 
vows.  "  To  marry  is  a  remedy  for  fornication  "  ;  these 
words  of  Luther's  were  again  and  again  repeated  by  him 
self  and  others  in  one  form  or  another,  as  though  they 
characterised  the  main  object  of  marriage.  Nature  was 
persistently  painted  as  excessively  weak  in  the  matter  of 
chastity,  and  as  quite  captive  under  the  yoke  of  passion. 
People  were  indeed  admonished  to  curb  their  passions  with 
the  help  of  Grace,  but  such  means  of  acquiring  God's  Grace 
as  mortification  and  self-conquest  were  only  too  frequently 
scoffed  at  as  mere  holiness-by-works,  while  as  for  the  means 
of  grace  sought  by  Catholics  in  the  Sacraments,  they  had 
simply  been  "  abolished." 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  61,  p.  205. 

2  "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  5,  p.  25.    Cp.  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch," 
p.  121  ;    "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1,  p.  421  ;    2,  p.  368.     Cp.  Kostlin- 
Kawerau,  2,  p.  440. 

3  "  Briefwechsel,"   10,  p.  266  :    "  reicio  .  .  .  ubi  possum."     There 
are,  however,  some  instances  of  sympathy  and  help  being  forthcoming. 

IV.— L 

146          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

By  his  patronage  of  polygamy,  forced  on  him  by  his 
wrong  interpretation  of  the  Bible,  Luther  put  the  crowning 
touch  on  his  contempt  for  Christian  marriage.1  This  was  to 
relinquish  the  position  of  privilege  in  which  Christianity 
had  established  marriage,  when,  following  the  Creator's 
intention,  it  insisted  on  monogamy. 

Birth  of  the  New  Views  on  Marriage  during  the  Controversy 
on  the  VO~M  of  Chastity. 

How  did  Luther  reach  his  opinion  and  succeed  in  endow 
ing  it  with  credibility  and  life  ?  A  glance  at  its  birth  and 
growth  will  give  us  an  instructive  insight  into  Luther's 
manner  of  proceeding. 

He  had  already  long  been  engaged  in  his  struggle  with 
"  Popish  abuses  "  and  had  already  set  up  all  the  essential 
points  of  his  new  theology,  before  becoming  in  the  least  con 
scious  of  the  supposed  contempt  in  which  marriage  was  held  by 
the  Roman  Church.  In  his  exposition  of  the  Ten  Command 
ments,  in  1518,  he  still  speaks  of  it  in  the  respectful  language 
of  his  earlier  years  ;  in  his  sermon  on  the  Married  State,  in 
1519,  he  still  terms  it  a  Sacrament,  without  hinting  in  any 
way  that  it  had  hitherto  been  considered  disreputable. 
Whether  he  uses  the  term  Sacrament  in  its  traditional 
meaning  we  do  not,  of  course,  know.  At  any  rate,  he  says  : 
"  Matrimony  is  a  Sacrament,  an  outward,  holy  sign  of  the 
greatest,  most  sacred,  worthy  and  exalted  thing  that  ever 
has  been,  or  ever  will  be,  viz.  of  the  union  of  the  Divine  and 
human  nature  in  Christ."2  Enumerating  the  spiritual 
advantages  of  marriage,  which  counteract  the  "  sinful  lusts 
therewith  intermingled,"  he  expressly  appeals  to  the 
"  Doctors  "  of  the  Church,  and  the  three  benefits  they 
perceived  in  matrimony  ;  "  first,  marriage  is  a  Sacrament," 
"  secondly,  it  is  a  bond  of  fidelity,"  "  thirdly,  it  brings 
offspring,  which  is  the  end  and  principal  office  of  marriage  "  ; 
a  further  benefit  must  be  added,  viz.  the  "  training  of  the 
offspring  in  the  service  of  God."3 

In  his  book  "  On  the  Babylonish  Captivity  "  (1520)  he 
has  already  arrived  at  the  explicit  denial  to  marriage  of  the 
name  and  character  of  a  sacrament. 

1  See  above,  pp.  3  ff.,  13  &.,  and  vol.  iii.,  259  ff. 

2  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  2,  p.   168  ;    Erl.  ed.,  242,  p.  63.     Second 
edition  of  the  Sermon.  3  Ibid.,  p.  168  f.  =  63  f. 


But  it  was  only  in  the  war  he  waged  against  his  own  vow 
of  chastity  that  the  idea  arose  in  his  mind,  and  even  then 
only  gradually,  that  the  true  value  and  excellence  of 
marriage  had  never  hitherto  been  recognised.  The  more  he 
sought  for  theological  grounds  on  which  to  prove  the 
worthlessness  of  religious  celibacy  and  the  nullity  of  the 
vow  of  chastity,  the  more  deeply  he  persuaded  himself  that 
proofs  existed  in  abundance  of  the  utter  perversity  of  the 
prevailing  opinions  on  matrimony.  He  began  to  impute  to 
the  Church  extravagant  views  on  virginity,  of  which  neither 
he  nor  anyone  else  had  ever  thought.  He  now  accused  her 
of  teaching  the  following  :  That  virginity  was  the  only 
state  in  which  God  could  be  served  perfectly ;  that 
marriage  was  forbidden  to  the  clergy  because  it  was  dis 
reputable  and  a  thing  soiled  with  sin ;  finally,  that  family 
life  with  its  petty  tasks  must  be  regarded  as  something 
degrading,  while  woman  herself,  to  whom  the  chief 
share  in  these  tasks  belongs  and  who,  moreover,  so 
often  tempts  man  to  sins  of  incontinence,  is  a  contemptible 

All  these  untruths  concerning  the  ancient  Church  were 
purely  the  outcome  of  Luther's  personal  polemics. 

His  system  of  attack  exhibits  no  trace  of  any  dispassion 
ate  examination  of  the  testimonies  of  antiquity.  But  his 
false  and  revolting  charges  seemed  some  sort  of  justification 
for  his  attack  on  religious  vows  and  clerical  celibacy. 
From  such  theoretical  charges  there  was  but  a  step  to 
charges  of  a  more  practical  character  and  to  his  boundless 
exaggerations  concerning  the  hideous  vices  supposed  to  have 
been  engendered  by  the  perversion  of  the  divinely  appointed 
order,  and  to  have  devastated  the  Church  as  a  chastisement 
for  her  contempt  for  marriage. 

In  the  second  edition  of  the  sermon  of  1519  on  the  Married 
State  he  places  virginity  on  at  least  an  equal  footing  with 
matrimony.  Towards  the  end  of  the  sermon  he  (like  the 
earlier  writers)  calls  matrimony  "  a  noble,  exalted  and 
blessed  state  "  if  rightly  observed,  but  otherwise  "  a 
wretched,  fearful  and  dangerous  "  one ;  he  proceeds  : 
Whoever  bears  this  in  mind  "  will  know  Avhat  to  think  of  the 
sting  of  the  flesh,  and,  possibly,  will  be  as  ready  to  accept 
the  virginal  state  as  the  conjugal."1  Even  during  his 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  2,  p.  170;    Erl.  ed.,  24 2,  p.  66. 

148          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

Wartburg  days,  when  under  the  influence  of  the  burning 
spirit  of  revolt,  and  already  straining  at  the  vows  which 
bound  him,  he  still  declared  in  the  theses  he  sent  Melanch- 
thon,  that  "  Marriage  is  good,  but  virginity  better " 
("  Bonum  coniugium,  melior  virginitas"),1  a  thesis,  which, 
like  St.  Paul,  he  bases  mainly  on  the  immunity  from 
worldly  cares.  This  idea  impressed  Melanchthon  so  deeply, 
that  he  re-echoes  it  in  his  praise  of  virginity  in  the  "  Apology 
for  the  Confession  of  Augsburg "  :  "  We  do  not  make 
virginity  and  marriage  equal.  For,  as  one  gift  is  better  than 
another,  prophecy  better  than  eloquence,  strategy  better 
than  agriculture,  eloquence  better  than  architecture,  so 
virginity  is  a  gift  excelling  marriage."2 

But  this  great  gift,  to  Luther's  mind,  was  a  moral  im 
possibility,  the  rarest  of  God's  Graces,  nay,  a  "  miracle  "  of 
the  Almighty.  Hence  he  teaches  that  such  a  privilege  must 
not  be  laid  claim  to,  that  the  monastic  vow  of  chastity  was 
therefore  utterly  immoral,  and  clerical  celibacy  too,  to  say 
nothing  of  private  vows  of  virginity  ;  in  all  such  there 
lurked  a  presumptuous  demand  for  the  rarest  and  most 
marvellous  of  Divine  Graces ;  even  to  pray  for  this  was  not 

At  the  conclusion  of  his  theses  for  Melanchthon,  Luther 
enforces  what  he  had  said  by  the  vilest  calumnies  against 
all  who,  in  the  name  of  the  Church,  had  pledged  themselves 
to  remain  unmarried.  Were  it  known  what  manner  of  persons 
those  who  profess  such  great  chastity  really  are,  their 
"  greatly  extolled  chastity  "  would  not  be  considered  fit 
"  for  a  prostitute  to  wipe  her  boots  on." 

Then  follow  his  further  unhappy  outbursts  at  the  Wart- 
burg  on  religious  vows  (vol.  ii.,  p.  83  ff.)  consummating  his 
perversion  of  the  Church's  teaching  and  practice  regarding 
celibacy  and  marriage.  In  marriage  he  sees  from  that  time 
forward  nothing  by  the  gratification  of  the  natural  im 
pulse  ;  to  it  every  man  must  have  recourse  unless  he 
enjoys  the  extraordinary  grace  of  God  ;  the  ancient  Church, 
with  her  hatred  of  marriage,  her  professed  religious  and 
celibate  clergy,  assumes  in  his  imagination  the  most 
execrable  shape.  He  fancies  that,  thanks  to  his  new  notions, 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  8,  p.  330  f.  ;   "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  4,  p.  353  seq. 
"  ludicium  de  votis  monasticis."    Cp.  vol.  iii.,  p.  248. 

2  "  Apol.  Conf.  Augustanae,"  c.  23,  n.  38  ;    Bekenntnisschriften,  10, 
p.  242  :    "  Ita  virginitas  donum  est  prcestantius  coniugio" 


he  has  risen  far  above  the  Christianity  of  the  past,  albeit 
the  Church  had  ever  striven  to  guard  the  sanctity  of 
marriage  as  the  very  apple  of  her  eye,  by  enacting  many 
laws  and  establishing  marriage-courts  of  her  own  under 
special  judges.  He  becomes  ever  more  reckless  in  casting 
marriage  matters  on  the  shoulders  of  the  State.  In  the 
Preface  to  his  "  Trawbiichlin,"  in  1529,  he  says,  for  instance, 
"  Since  wedlock  and  marriage  are  a  worldly  business,  we 
clergy  and  ministers  of  the  Church  have  nothing  to  order 
or  decree  about  it,  but  must  leave  each  town  and  country 
to  follow  its  own  usage  and  custom."1 

From  that  time  forward,  particularly  when  the  Diet  of 
Augsburg  had  embittered  the  controversy,  Luther  pours 
out  all  the  vials  of  his  terrible  eloquence  on  the  bondage  in 
which  marriage  had  been  held  formerly,  and  on  the  con 
tempt  displayed  by  Rome  for  it.  He  peremptorily  demands 
its  complete  secularisation. 

And  yet  he  ostentatiously  extols  marriage  as  "  holy  and 
Divine,"  and  even  says  that  wedlock  is  most  pleasing  to 
God,  a  mystery  and  Sacrament  in  the  highest  sense  of  the 
word.  Of  one  of  these  passages  Emil  Friedberg,  the  Protes 
tant  canonist,  remarks  in  his  "  Recht  der  Eheschliessung  "  : 
"  Luther's  views  as  here  expressed  completely  contradict 
other  passages,  and  this  same  discrepancy  is  apparent 
throughout  the  later  literature,  and,  even  now,  prevents 
[Protestants]  from  appreciating  truly  the  nature  of 

Every  impartial  observer  could  have  seen  that  the 
preference  given  to  virginity  by  the  Catholic  Church,  her 
defence  of  the  manner  of  life  of  those  whom  God  had  called 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  30,  3,  p.  74  ;   Erl.  ed.,  23,  p.  208. 

2  Leipzig,  1865,  p.  159.     Friedberg  adduces  passages  from  H.L.  v. 
Strampff,  "  Uber  die  Ehe  ;  aus  Luthers  Schriften  zusammengetragen," 
Berlin,  1857.     Falk,  "  Die  Ehe  am  Ausgang  des  MA.,"  p.  73.    Th.  Kolde 
says,  in  his  "  M.  Luther,"  2,  p.  488,  that  the  reformers,  and  Luther  in 
particular,  "  lacked  a  true  insight  into  the  real,  moral  nature  of  mar 
riage."     "  At  that  time  at  any  rate  [1522  f.]  it  was  always  the  sensual 
side  of  marriage  to  which  nature  impels,  which  influenced  him.      That 
marriage  is  essentially  the  closest  communion  between  two  individuals, 
and  thus,  by  its  very  nature,  excludes  more  than  two,  never  became 
clear  to  him  or  to  the  other  reformers."     Kolde,  however,  seeks  to 
trace  this   want  of  perception  to   the   "  mediaeval  views  concerning 
marriage."     Cp.  Denifle,   I1,  p.   285.     Otto  Scheel,  the  translator  of 
Luther's  work    on   Monastic  Vows  ("  Werke  Luthers,  Auswahl,   usw., 
Erganzungsbd.,"  1,  p.  199  ff.),  speaks  of  Luther's  view  of  marriage  as 
"  below  that  of  the  Gospel  "  (p.  198). 

150          LUTHER  THE   REFORMER 

to  the  cloister,  and  her  guardianship  of  the  celibacy  of  the 
priesthood,  handed  down  from  the  earliest  ages,  did  not  in 
the  least  imply  any  undervaluing  of  marriage  on  her  part — 
unless  indeed,  as  Joseph  Mausbach  remarks,  he  was  pre 
pared  to  admit  that,  "  because  one  thing  is  better,  its  opposite 
must  needs  be  bad." 

"  Who  thinks,"  continues  the  same  writer,  that  "  prefer 
ence  for  gold  involves  contempt  for  silver,  or  preference  for 
the  rose  a  depreciation  of  all  other  flowers  ?  But  these  very 
comparisons  are  to  be  met  with  even  amongst  the  ancient 
Fathers.  .  .  .  Why  should  the  Church's  praise  of  virginity 
be  always  misconstrued  as  a  reproach  against  matrimony  ? 
All  this  is  mere  thoughtlessness,  when  it  is  not  blind 
prejudice,  for  the  Church  did  everything  to  prevent  any 
misunderstanding  of  her  praise  of  virginity,  and  certainly 
taught  and  defended  the  sanctity  of  marriage  with  all  her 

Luther's  judgment  was  not  due  so  much  to  mere  thought 
lessness  as  to  his  burning  hatred  of  the  Papacy  ;  this  we  see 
from  the  vulgar  abuse  which,  whenever  he  comes  to  speak 
of  marriage  and  celibacy,  he  showers  on  the  Pope,  the 
supreme  champion  of  the  Evangelical  Counsels  and  of  the 
priestly  ideal  of  life  ;  on  the  other  hand,  it  was  also  to  some 
extent  due  to  his  deeply  rooted  and  instinctive  aversion 
for  everything  whereby  zealous  Christians  do  violence  to 
nature  out  of  love  for  God,  from  the  motive  of  penance  and 
from  a  desire  to  obtain  merit. 

The  Natural  Impulse  and  the  Honour  of  Marriage. 

Ecclesiastical  writers  before  Luther's  day  speak  frequently 
and  plainly  enough  of  the  impulse  of  nature,  but,  as  a  rule, 
only  in  order  to  recommend  its  control,  to  point  out  the 
means  of  combating  excesses,  and  to  insist  on  the  Sacra 
ment  which  sanctifies  conjugal  intercourse  and  brings  down 
the  blessings  we  require  if  the  earthly  and  eternal  purpose 
of  marriage  is  to  be  fulfilled. 

Luther,  however,  if  we  may  trust  one  of  his  most  zealous 
defenders,  rendered  a  great  service  with  regard  to  sexual  inter 
course  in  that  "  he  shook  off  the  pseudo-ascetic  spirit  of  the 
past."  He  demonstrated,  so  we  are  told,  particularly  in  what  he 

1  "Die  kath.  Moral,"  1902,  p.  118. 


wrote  to  Spalatin  about  the  "  actus  matrimonialis"1 — words 
which  some  have  regarded  as  offensive — -"  that  even  that  act, 
though  represented  by  his  opponents  as  obscene,  to  the  faithful 
Christian  who  'receives  it  with  thanksgiving'  (1  Tim.  iv.  4), 
contained  nothing  to  raise  a  blush  or  to  forbid  its  mention." 
According  to  the  "  Roman  view  "  it  is  perfectly  true  that  "  the 
'  actus  matrimonialis  '  is  sinless  only  when  performed  with  the 
object  of  begetting  children,  or  in  order  to  fulfil  the  conjugal 
due."2  This,  he  exclaims,  "  was  forsooth  to  be  the  sole  motive 
of  conjugal  intercourse  !  And,  coupled  with  this  motive,  the  act 
even  becomes  meritorious  !  Is  there  any  need  of  confuting  so 
repulsive  a  notion  ?  .  .  .  Luther's  view  is  very  different.  The 
natural  sexual  passion  was,  according  to  him,  the  will  and  the 
work  of  God."  "  The  effect  of  the  Roman  exaltation  of  celibacy 
was  to  make  people  believe,  that  the  motive  [of  conjugal  inter 
course]  implanted  by  God,  viz.  sexual  attraction,  must  not  be 
yielded  to."  This  attraction  Luther  declared  to  be  the  one  motive 
on  account  of  which  we  should  "  thankfully  avail  ourselves  "  of 
matrimony.  "  This  Luther  conveys  most  clearly  in  his  letter 
to  Spalatin,  his  intimate  friend,  shortly  after  both  had  wedded. 
.  .  .  We  know  no  higher  conception  of  conjugal  intercourse." 

This  description  does  not  do  justice  to  the  mediaeval  Catholic 
teaching  on  matrimony,  its  duties  and  privileges.  This  teaching 
never  demanded  the  suppression  of  sensual  attraction  or  love. 
It  fully  recognised  that  this  had  been  implanted  in  human  nature 
by  God's  wise  and  beneficent  hand  as  a  stimulus  to  preserve  and 
multiply  the  human  race,  according  to  His  command  :  "  Be 
fruitful  and  multiply."  But  the  Church  urged  all  to  see  that  this 
impulse  was  kept  pure  and  worthy  by  attention  to  its  higher 
purpose,  viz.  to  the  object  appointed  from  above.  Instead  of 
becoming  its  slave  the  Christian  was  to  ennoble  it  by  allowing 
the  motives  of  faith  to  play  their  part  in  conjugal  intercourse. 
The  Church's  teaching  would  indeed  have  been  "  repulsive  "  had 
it  demanded  the  general  repression  of  the  sexual  instinct  and  not 
merely  the  taming  of  that  unruliness  which  is  the  result  of 
original  sin,  and  is  really  unworthy  of  man.  Had  she  imposed 
the  obligation  to  wage  an  impossible  struggle  against  it  as  a 
thing  essentially  sinful,  then  her  teaching  might  indeed  have 
been  described  as  "  repulsive." 

Still  it  is  sufficiently  tragic,  that,  in  spite  of  the  gratification  of 
the  sensual  impulse  of  nature  playing  the  principal  part  in  his  new 
and  supposedly  more  exalted  view  of  conjugal  intercourse,  Luther 
should,  on  account  of  the  concupiscence  involved,  characterise 
the  "  actus  matrimonialis  "  as  a  mortal  sin.  In  "  De  votis  mon- 

1  On  Dec.  G,  1525,  "  Brief wechsel,"  5,  p.  279.     See  vol.  iii.,  p.  269. 
The  passage  was  omitted  by  Aurifaber  and  De  Wette  probably  because 
not  judged  quite  proper. 

2  Aug.,  "  De  bono  coniug.,"  c.  6,  n.  6  ;    c.  7,  n.  6.     According  to 
Denifle,  I1,  p.  277,  n.  2,  the  Schoolmen  knew  the  passages  through  the 
Lombard  "  Sent.,"  4,  dist.  31,  c.  5.    He  also  quotes  S.  Thorn.,  "  Summa 
theol.,"  Supplem.,  q.  41,  a.  4  ;    q.   49,  a.   5  ;    q.   64,  a.  4  :     "  ut  sibi 
invicem  debitum  reddant." 

152         LUTHER  THE   REFORMER 

astici-s,"  his  work  written  at  the  Wartburg,  he  says  :  "  Accord 
ing  to  Ps.  1.  7,  it  is  a  sin  differing  in  nothing  from  adultery  and 
fornication  so  far  as  the  sensual  passion  and  hateful  lust  are 
concerned  ;  God,  however,  does  not  impute  it  to  the  married, 
though  simply  because  of  His  compassion,  since  it  is  impossible 
for  us  to  avoid  it,  although  our  duty  would  really  be  to  do 
without  it."1  We  are  already  familiar  with  his  curious  and 
impossible  theory  of  imputation,  according  to  which  God  is  able 
to  close  His  eyes  to  a  sin,  which  nevertheless  is  really  there. 

That  there  is  actual  sin  in  the  act  Luther  also  insists  elsewhere, 
at  the  same  time  pleading,  however,  that  the  sin  is  not  imputed 
by  God,  who,  as  it  were,  deliberately  winks  at  it  :  "In  spite  of 
all  the  good  I  say  of  married  life,  I  will  not  grant  so  much  to 
nature  as  to  admit  that  there  is  no  sin  in  it ;  what  I  say  is  that 
we  have  here  flesh  and  blood,  depraved  in  Adam,  conceived  and 
born  in  sin  (Ps.  1.  7),  and  that  no  conjugal  due  is  ever  rendered 
without  sin."2 — The  blessing  which  God  bestowed  on  marriage, 
he  says  elsewhere,  fallen  human  nature  was  "  not  able  to  ac 
complish  without  sin  "  ;  "  without  sin  no  married  persons  could 
do  their  duty."3 

Hence  the  following  inference  would  seem  justified  :  Matri 
mony  is  really  a  state  of  sin.  Such  was  the  opinion,  not  of  the 
Church  before  Luther's  day,  but  of  her  assailant,  whose  opponents 
soon  pointed  out  to  him  how  unfounded  was  his  supposition.4 
The  ancient  Church,  by  the  voice  of  her  theologians,  declared  the 
"  actus  matrimonialis,"  when  performed  in  the  right  way  and  to 
a  right  end,  to  be  no  sin  ;  they  admitted  the  inevitable  satisfac 
tion  of  concupiscence,  but  allowed  it  so  long  as  its  gratification 
was  not  all  that  was  sought.  According  to  Luther — whom  the 
author  above  referred  to  has  quite  rightly  understood — it  is 
different  :  Sin  is  undoubtedly  committed,  but  we  may,  nay,  are 
bound,  to  commit  it. 

With  the  above,  all  Luther's  statements  on  the  inevitable 
strength  of  the  impulse  of  nature  agree.  Though  the  union 
of  husband  and  wife  is  a  rule  of  the  natural  law  applying 
to  the  majority  rather  than  to  the  individual,  Luther 
practically  makes  it  binding  upon  all.  In  this  connection 
he  seems  to  be  unable  to  view  the  moral  relation  of  the 
sexes  in  any  other  light  than  as  existing  for  the  gratification 
of  mutual  lust,  since  without  marriage  they  must  inevitably 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  8,  p.  654  ;    "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  6,  p.  355.    On 
the  text,  see  Denifle,  I2,  p.  263,  n.  3. 

2  Ibid.,    20,    2,    p.    304 ;    Erl.    ed.,    162,    p.    541.      "  On    Married 
Life,"  1522. 

3  Ibid.,  12,  p.  114.    Cp.  "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.,"  4,  p.  10. 

4  N.  Paulus,   "  Hist.   Jahrb.,"   27,    1906,  p.  495,  art.  "  Zu  Luthers 
Schrift  iiber  die  Monchsgeliibde  "  :   "  Luther's  false  view  of  the  sinful- 
ness     of    the     '  actus    matrimonialis  '     was    strongly    repudiated    by 
Catholics,  particularly  by  Clichtoveus  and  Cochlaeus." 


fall  into  every  sort  of  carnal  sin.  "  It  is  a  necessary  and 
natural  thing,  that  every  man  should  have  a  wife,"  he  says 
in  the  lengthy  passage  already  quoted,  where  he  concludes, 
"  it  is  more  necessary  than  eating  and  drinking,  sleeping  and 
waking,  or  passing  the  natural  motions  of  the  body."1 
Elsewhere,  in  a  characteristic  comparison,  he  says  :  "  Were 
a  man  compelled  to  close  his  bowels  and  bladder — surely  an 
utter  impossibility — what  would  become  of  him  ?  "2  Accord 
ing  to  him,  "  man  must  be  fruitful,  and  multiply,  and 
breed,"  "  like  all  other  animals,  since  God  has  created  him 
thereto,  so  that,  of  necessity,  a  man  must  seek  a  wife,  and  a 
woman  a  husband,  unless  God  works  a  miracle."3 

Many  were  they  who,  during  the  controversies  which 
accompanied  the  schism,  listened  to  such  teaching  and 
believed  it  and  were  ready  to  forgo  the  miracle  in  order  to 
follow  the  impulse  of  nature  ;  were  ready  to  indulge  their 
weakness  did  their  state  of  life  prohibit  marriage,  or  to 
dissolve  the  marriage  already  contracted  when  it  did  not 
turn  out  to  their  taste,  or  when  they  fancied  they  could 
advance  one  of  the  numerous  reasons  proclaimed  by  Luther 
for  its  annulment.  The  evil  effects  of  such  morality  in  the 
16th  century  (see  below,  p.  164  ff.  and  xxiv.  1  and  2), 
witnessed  to  on  all  sides  by  Lutherans  as  well  as  Catholics, 
prove  conclusively  that  the  originator  of  the  new  matri 
monial  theories  was  the  last  man  qualified  to  reproach  the 
ancient  Church  with  a  want  of  appreciation  for  marriage  or 
for  woman. 

Nor  must  we  look  merely  at  the  results.  The  man's  very 
character,  his  mode  of  thought  and  his  speech,  suffice  to 
banish  him  from  the  society  of  the  olden,  earnest  moralists. 
Albeit  unwillingly,  we  must  add  here  some  further  state 
ments  to  those  already  adduced.4 

"  If  a  man  feels  his  manhood,"  Luther  says,  "  let  him  take  a 
wife  and  not  tempt  God.  '  Puella  propterea  habet  pudenda,'  to 
provide  him  a  remedy  that  he  may  escape  pollution  and 

1  "Werke,"    Weim.    ed.,    10,    2,   p.    276;     Erl.    ed.,    162,   p.    511. 
"  Sermon  on  the  Married  Life,"  1522. 

2  Ibid.,  12,  p.  66  ;    Erl.  ed.,  53,  p.  188. 

3  Ibid.,  p.  113.  4  Cp.  vol.  iii.,  p.  264  ff. 

6  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  101.  Then  follows  a  highly 
questionable  statement  concerning  a  rule  of  the  Wittenberg  Augus- 
tinian  monastery,  in  which  Luther  fails  to  distinguish  between  "  pollu- 

154          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

"  The  sting  of  the  flesh  may  easily  be  helped,  so  long  as  girls 
and  women  are  to  be  found."1 

Our  readers  will  not  have  forgotten  the  reason  he  gives  why 
women  have  so  little  intellect  ;2  or  the  reproof  addressed  to  him 
by  Staupitz.3 

Luther  urges  early  marriage  in  the  words  of  an  old  proverb  : 
"  To  rise  early  and  to  marry  young  will  cause  regret  to  no  one." 
"  It  will  fare  with  you,"  he  says  to  the  same  addressee,  "  as  with 
the  nuns  to  whom  they  gave  carved  Jesuses.  They  cast  about 
for  others,  who  at  least  were  living  and  pleased  them  better, 
and  sought  how  best  to  escape  from  their  convent."4 — "What 
greater  service  can  one  do  a  girl  than  to  get  her  a  baby  ?  This  rids 
her  of  many  fancies."6  Here,  and  elsewhere  too,  he  is  anxious 
that  people  should  marry,  even  though  there  should  not  be 
enough  to  live  upon  ;  God  would  not  allow  the  couple  to  starve 
if  they  did  their  duty.6 — "A  young  fellow  should  be  simply 
given  a  wife,  otherwise  he  has  no  peace.  Then  the  troubles  of 
matrimony  will  soon  tame  him."7 

On  another  occasion  (1540)  Luther  expresses  himself  with 
greater  caution  about  too  early  matches  :  "  It  is  not  good  for 
young  people  to  marry  too  soon.  They  are  ruined  in  their  prime, 
exhaust  their  strength  and  neglect  their  studies."  "  But  the 
young  men  are  consumed  with  passion,"  one  of  those  present 
objected,  "  and  the  theologians  work  upon  their  conscience  and 
tell  them  that  '  To  marry  young  will  cause  regret  to  no  one.'  ' 
Luther's  reply  was  :  "  The  young  men  are  unwilling  to  resist 
any  temptations.  .  .  .  They  should  console  themselves  with  the 
hope  of  future  marriage.  We  used  to  be  forbidden  to  marry  in 
almost  all  the  Faculties,  hence  the  youths  indulged  in  all  kinds  of 
excesses,  knowing  that,  later  on,  they  would  no  longer  be  able  to 
do  so.  Thus  they  sunk  into  every  kind  of  disorder.  But  now 
everybody  is  allowed  to  marry,  even  the  theologian  and  the 
bishop.  Hence,  in  their  own  interests,  they  ought  to  learn  to 

At  other  times  he  was  inclined  to  promote  hasty  marriages 
from  motives  of  policy,  and,  without  a  thought  of  the  dignity  of 
the  conjugal  union  and  the  respect  due  to  woman,  to  use  it  as  a 
means  to  increase  the  number  of  his  followers. 

tiones  voluntaries  "  and  "  involuntarice,"  but  which  draws  from  him 
the  exclamation  :  "  All  the  monasteries  and  foundations  ought  to  be 
destroyed,  if  only  on  account  of  these  shocking  '  pollutiones  '  /  " 

1  Mathesius,   "  Aufzeichn.,"  p.   73,  where  some  improper  remarks 
may  be  found  on  the  temptation  of  St.  Paul  (according  to  the  notes,  on 
account  of  St.  Thecla)  and  that  of  St.  Benedict,  who,  we  are  told, 
rolled  himself  in  the  thorns  to  overcome  it. 

2  See  vol.  iii.,  p.  267,  n.  10. 

3  Ibid.,  p.  122  :    "  Scribis,  mea  iactari  ab  Us  qui  lupanaria  colunt." 
"  Briefe,"  ed.  by  De  Wette,  6,  p.  419,  undated. 

5  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  373.     To  a  bridegroom  in  1536. 

"  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  15,  p.  364  f.  ;  Erl.  ed.,  41,  p.  135.    Branden 
burg,  "  Luther  iiber  die  Obrigkeit,"  p.  7. 

7  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  437.  8  Ibid.,  p.  219. 


This  happened  in  the  case  of  many  of  his  converts  from  the 
ranks  of  the  clergy  and  religious.1 

In  the  case  of  the  Bishop  of  Samland,  George  von  Polenz,  and 
his  adviser,  Johann  Briesmann,  the  ex-Franciscan,  who  both 
were  desirous  of  marrying,  Luther  judged  that  delay  would  be 
disastrous.  He  urged  them  to  make  haste  and  be  publicly 
wedded,  both  having  already  contracted  a  so-called  marriage 
in  conscience  ;  in  their  case  there  was  "  danger  in  delay,"  and, 
as  the  saying  goes,  "  If  you  wait  a  night,  you  wait  a  year  "  ;  even 
Paul  had  said  we  must  not  receive  the  grace  of  God  in  vain  (2  Cor. 
vi.  1),  and  the  bride  in  the  Canticle  complained  that  the  bride 
groom  "  was  gone,"  because  she  had  been  tardy  in  opening  the 
door  (v.  6).  A  German  proverb  said,  "  Wenn  das  Ferkel  beut 
soil  man  den  Sack  herhalten."  Esau's  lost  birthright,  and  the 
solemn  words  of  Christ  concerning  separation  from  Him  (John 
xii.  35  f.)  were  also  made  to  serve  his  purpose.  "  Take  it  when, 
where  and  how  you  can,  or  you  won't  get  another  chance."  A 
man  could  not  be  sure  of  his  own  mind  on  account  of  the  snares 
of  the  devil  ;  a  marriage  not  yet  publicly  ratified  remained 
somewhat  uncertain.2 

Before  these  exhortations  reached  them  both  the  parties  in 
question  had,  however,  already  taken  the  public  step. 

It  was  in  those  very  days  that  Luther  celebrated  his  own 
wedding  and  sent  his  pressing  invitation  to  marry  to  the  Cardinal 
and  Elector  of  Mayence,  telling  him  that,  short  of  a  miracle,  or 
without  some  peculiar  grace,  it  was  a  "  terrible  thing  "  for  a  man 
"to  be  found  without  a  wife  at  the  hour  of  death."3  It  was 
then,  too,  that  he  sent  to  Albert  of  Prussia,  the  Grand  Master 
of  the  Teutonic  Order,  \vho  was  contemplating  marriage,  his 
congratulations  on  the  secularisation  of  the  lands  of  the  Order 
and  the  founding  of  the  Duchy,  which  he  had  even  previously 
strongly  urged  him  to  do.  In  this  letter  he  tells  the  Grand  Master 
that  it  was  "  God  Almighty,"  "  Who  had  graciously  and  merci 
fully  helped  him  to  such  a  position  [that  of  a  secular  Prince]."4 
The  Grand  Master's  marriage  and  consequent  breach  of  his  vow 
of  chastity  followed  in  1526.  He  invited  Luther  to  the  wedding 
and  wrote  to  him,  that  God  had  given  him  "  the  grace  to  enter 
the  Order  [of  marriage]  instituted  by  Himself  "  after  he  had 

1  See  vol.  ii.,  pp.  115-28. 

2  To  Spalatin,  June  10,  1525,  "  Briefwechsel,"  5,  p.  189  f.     Enders 
(p.  191)  would  refer  the  above  passages  to  Luther's  own  marriage,  but 
G.  Bossert  ("  Theol.  Literaturztng.,"  1907,  p.  691)  makes  out  a  better 
case  for  their  reference  to  Polenz  and  Briesmann.  Two  persons  at  least 
are  obviously  referred  to  :    "  Quod  illi  vero  prcetexunt,  certos  sese  fore  de 
animo  suo,  stultum  est  ;    nullius  cor  eat  in  manu  sua,  diabolus  poten- 
tissimus  est,"   etc.      Luther  evidently  felt,  that,  until  the  persons  in 
question  had  been  bound  to  the  new  Evangel  by  their  public  marriages, 
their  support  could  not  be  entirelv  reckoned  on. 

3  On  June  2,  1525,  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  53,  p.  308  ("  Briefwechsel," 
5,  p.  186).     See  vol.  ii.,  p.  142. 

4  On  May  26,   1525,   "  Werke,"  ibid.,  p.    304  ("  Briefwechsel,"    5, 
p.  179). 

156         LUTHER  THE   REFORMER 

"  laid  aside  the  cross  [the  sign  of  the  Order]  and  entered  the 
secular  estate." 

It  cannot  be  denied,  that  in  all  these  marriages  which  Luther 
promoted,  or  at  least  favoured,  what  he  had  his  eye  on  was  the 
advantage  of  the  new  Church  system,  Of  any  raising  of  the 
moral  position  of  women,  of  any  deepening  of  the  significance  of 
marriage,  there  is  here  no  trace  ;  these  marriages  served  quite 
another  purpose.  The  circumstances  attending  them  were, 
moreover,  frequently  far  from  dignified.  "  The  Bishop  of 
Samland,"  so  Philip  von  Creutz,  a  Knight  of  the  Teutonic  Order, 
relates,  "  gave  up  his  bishopric  to  the  Duke  [Albert]  in  the 
presence  of  the  whole  assembly.  .  .  .  He  caused  his  mitre  to  be 
broken  up  and,  out  of  its  precious  stones  and  jewels,  he  had 
ornaments  made  for  his  wife."1 

Practical  Consequences  of  the  New  View  of  Woman  : 
Matrimonial  Impediments,  Divorce. 

The  readiness  shown  by  Luther  to  annul  valid  marriages, 
and  the  wayward  manner  in  which  he  disposed  of  the 
impediments  fixed  by  the  Church,  were  not  calculated  to 
enhance  respect  either  for  marriage  or  for  Woman. 

As  regards  the  impediments  to  marriage  we  shall  here 
merely  refer  to  the  practical  and  not  uncommon  case  where 
a  person  wished  to  marry  a  niece.  Whereas  Canon  Law,  at 
one  with  Roman  Law,  regarded  this  relationship  as  consti 
tuting  an  impediment,  which  might,  however,  be  dispensed 
from  by  the  Pope,  Luther  at  first  saw  fit  to  declare  it  no 
impediment  at  all ;  he  even  issued  memoranda  to  this 
effect,  one  of  which  was  printed  in  1526  and  circulated 
widely.2  "  If  the  Pope  was  able  to  dispense,"  he  said  later 
on  concerning  this,  "  why  can't  I  too?  "3  In  favour  of  the 
lawfulness  of  such  marriages  he  appealed  to  the  example  of 
Abraham,  and  in  reply  to  objections  declared  :  "  If  they 
blame  the  work  and  example  of  the  holy  Patriarch  Abraham, 
then  let  them  be  scandalised."4  At  a  later  date,  nevertheless, 

1  Janssen,  "  Hist,  of  the  German  People  "  (Eng.  Trans.,  5,  p.  114). 

2  Advice  to  this  effect  is  found  in  letters  of  Dec.  22,  1525,  and  Jan. 
5,   1526,  both  addressed  to  Marquard  Schuldorp  of  Magdeburg,  who 
married  his  niece,  "  Brief wechsel,"  5,  p.  283  (and  p.  303).    The  second 
letter,   "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  53,  p.  364,  was  printed  at  Magdeburg  in 
1526.     In  the  first  letter  he  says,  that  though  the  Pope  would  in  all 
likelihood  refuse  to  grant  a  dispensation  in  this  case,  yet  it  sufficed  that 
God  was  not  averse  to  the  marriage.     "  They  shall  not  be  allowed  to 
curtail  our  freedom  !  " 

3  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  337,  in  1544. 

4  In  the  second  letter  to  Schuldorp.    Cp.  N.  Paulus,  "  Hist.-pol.  Bl.," 
135,  1905,  p.  85. 


he  changed  his  mind  and  held  such  marriages  to  be  unlawful. 
His  previous  statements  he  explained  by  saying  that  once 
he  had  indeed  given  a  different  decision,  not  in  order  to  lead 
others  into  excesses  but  in  order  "  to  assist  consciences  at 
the  hour  of  death  against  the  Pope  "  ;  he  had  merely  given 
advice  in  Confession  to  troubled  consciences,  and  had  not 
laid  down  any  law ;  to  make  laws  was  not  within  his 
province,  either  in  the  State  or  in  the  Church.  His  former 
memoranda  were  not  to  be  alleged  now  ;  a  certain  man  of 
the  name  of  Borner,  who,  on  the  strength  of  them,  had 
married  his  niece,  had  acted  very  ill  and  done  injustice  to 
his  (Luther's)  decision.  The  Pope  alone,  so  Luther  says, 
was  to  blame  for  his  previous  advice — because  many,  owing 
to  his  laws,  were  reduced  to  despair  and  had  come  to  Luther 
for  help.  "It  is  true  that  in  Confession  and  in  order  to 
pacify  consciences  I  have  advised  differently,  but  I  made  a 
mistake  in  allowing  such  counsels  to  be  made  public.  Now, 
however,  it  is  done.  This  is  a  matter  for  Confession  only."1 

When  speaking  in  this  way,  in  1544,  he  probably  had  in 
mind  his  so-called  advice  in  Confession  to  Philip  of  Hesse. 
He  was  still  acting  on  the  principle,  that  advice  given  in 
Confession  might  afterwards  be  publicly  repudiated  as  quite 
wrong  ;  he  failed  somehow  to  see  that  the  case  of  marriage 
of  uncle  and  niece  was  of  its  very  nature  something  public. 

The  multitude  of  divorces  caused  him  great  anxiety. 
Even  the  preachers  of  the  new  faith  were  setting  a  bad 
example  by  putting  away  their  spouses  and  contracting 
fresh  marriages.  Melander,  for  instance,  who  blessed  Philip's 
second  marriage,  after  deserting  "  two  wives  in  succession 
without  even  seeking  legal  aid,  married  a  third."2  At 
Gotha,  as  Luther  himself  relates,  a  woman  deserted  her 

1  Mathesius,  ibid.     For  further  explanation  of  this  statement,  cp. 
Luther's  letter  of  Dec.  10,  1543,  to  D.  Hesse,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  606  ff.   He 
there  says  of  his  decision  on  the  lawfulness  of  this  marriage  :    "  Est 
nuda  tabula,  in  qua  nihil  docetur  aut  iubetur,  sed  modeste  ostenditur,  quid 
in  veteri  lege  de  his  traditum  sit.  .  .  .  In  consolationem  confessorem  seu 
conscientiarum  mea   quoque   scheda  fuit   emissa  contra  papam."      He 
insists  that  he  had  always  spoken  in  support  of  the  secular  laws  on 
marriage  and  against  the  rein tr eduction  of  the  Mosaic  ordinances. 
"  Ministrorum  verbi  non  est  leges  condere,  pertinet  hoc  ad  magistratum 
civilem  .  .  .  ideo  et  coniugium  debet  legibus  ordinari.     Tamen  si  quis 
casus  cogeret  dispensare,  non  vererer  occulte  in  conscientiis  aliter  consulere, 
vel  si  esset  publicus  casus,  consulere,  ut  a  magistratu  peteret  dispensa- 

2  Rockwell,  "  Die  Doppelehe  Philipps,"  p.  86. 

158          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

husband  and  her  three  children,  and  sent  him  a  message  to 
tell  him  he  might  take  another  wife.  When,  however,  he 
had  done  so  the  woman  again  asserted  her  claims.  "  Our 
lawyers,"  Luther  complains,  "  at  once  took  her  part,  but  the 
Elector  decided  she  should  quit  the  country.  My  own 
decision  would  have  been  to  have  her  done  to  death  by 

In  a  still  existing  letter  of  1525,  Luther  permitted  Michael 
Kramer,  preacher  at  Domitsch,  near  Torgau,  to  contract  a 
third  marriage,  two  previous  ones  having  turned  out  un 
fortunate.  Kramer,  as  a  Catholic  priest,  had  first  married  a 
servant  maid  and,  for  this,  had  been  sent  to  jail  by  Duke 
George  his  sovereign.  When  the  maid  proved  unfaithful 
and  married  another,  Luther,  to  whom  Kramer  had  attached 
himself,  declared  her  to  be  really  "  deceased  "  and  told  the 
preacher  he  might  use  his  "  Christian  freedom."  Kramer 
thereupon  married  a  girl  from  Domitsch,  where  he  had  been 
in  the  meantime  appointed  Lutheran  pastor.  This  new  wife 
likewise  ran  away  from  him  three  weeks  later.  He  now 
addressed  himself  to  the  local  board  of  magistrates,  who, 
conjointly  with  him,  wrote  to  Luther,  pointing  out  how  the 
poor  man  "  could  not  do  without  a  wife."  Luther  thereupon 
sent  a  memorandum,  addressed  to  the  "  magistrates  and  the 
preacher  of  Domitsch,"  in  which  he  allowed  a  divorce  from 
the  second  wife  and  gave  permission  for  a  third  marriage, 
which,  apparently,  was  more  of  a  success.  During  the 
Visitations  in  1528  this  preacher,  who  had  since  been  trans 
ferred  to  Lucka,  got  into  trouble  on  account  of  his  three 
marriages,  but  saved  his  skin  by  appealing  to  Luther's 

The  reader  already  knows  that,  according  to  Luther, 
a  woman  who  has  no  children  by  her  husband,  may,  with 
the  latter's  consent,  quietly  dissolve  the  marriage  and 
cohabit  with  another,  for  instance,  with  her  brother-in-law  ; 
this,  however,  was  to  be  secret,  because  the  children  were  to 
be  regarded  as  her  first  husband's.  Should  he  refuse  his 
consent,  says  Luther,  "  rather  than  suffer  her  to  burn  or 
have  recourse  to  adultery,  I  would  advise  her  to  marry 
another  and  flee  to  some  place  where  she  is  unknown.  What 

1  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  374,  Jan.,  1537. 

2  Luther's  memorandum,  Aug.   18,   1525,   "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  53, 
p.  326  ("  Brief wechsel,"  5,  p.  228).    Cp.  Enders'  Notes  to  this  letter. 


other  advice  can  be  given  to  one  who  is  in  constant  danger 
from  carnal  lusts  ?  5?1  Duke  George  of  Saxony,  referring  to 
a  similar  passage  in  Luther's  work  "  On  Conjugal  Life  " 
(1522),2  said  in  a  letter  to  Luther  which  was  immediately 
printed  :  "  When  was  it  ever  heard  of  that  wives  should  be 
taken  from  their  husbands  and  given  to  other  men,  as  we 
now  find  it  stated  in  your  Evangel  ?  Has  adultery  ever  been 
more  common  than  since  you  wrote  :  If  a  woman  has  no 
children  by  her  husband,  then  let  her  go  to  another  and  bear 
children  whom  her  husband  must  provide  for  as  though  he 
were  the  father  ?  This  is  the  fruit  of  the  precious  Evangel 
which  you  dragged  forth  out  of  the  gutter.  You  were  quite 
right  when  you  said  you  found  it  in  the  gutter  ;  what  we 
want  to  know  is,  why  you  didn't  leave  it  there."3 

What  Luther  had  said  concerning  the  refusal  to  render  the 
conjugal  due  :  "If  the  wife  refuse,  then  let  the  maid  come," 
attracted  more  attention  than  he  probably  anticipated,  both 
among  his  own  adherents  and  among  his  foes.  It  is  true,  as 
already  pointed  out,  that  the  context  does  not  justify  illicit 
relations  outside  marriage  (see  vol.  iii.,  p.  252  f.),  but  the  words 
as  they  stand,  to  say  nothing  of  the  unlikelihood  of  any  real 
marriage  with  the  maid,  and,  finally,  the  significance  which 
may  have  clung  to  a  coarse  saying  of  the  populace  possibly 
alluded  to  by  Luther,  all  favoured  those  who  chose  to  make 
the  tempting  phrase  a  pretext  for  such  extra-matrimonial 

When  the  sermon  on  marriage  in  which  the  passage  occurs  was 
published,  Duke  George's  representative  at  the  Diet  of  Nurem 
berg  in  1522  sent  his  master  at  Dresden  a  copy  of  the  booklet, 
"  which  the  devilish  monk,"  so  he  writes,  "  has  unblushingly 
published,  though  it  has  cost  him  the  loss  of  many  followers 
about  here  ;  it  would  not  go  well  with  us  poor  husbands,  should 
our  naughty  wives  read  it.  I  shall  certainly  not  give  my  wife 
one."4  Duke  George  replied  with  a  grim  jest  which  doubtless 
went  the  rounds  at  Nuremberg  among  those  whom  the  booklet 
had  offended  :  "  As  to  what  you  write,"  George  says,  "  viz.  that 
you  won't  let  your  wife  read  the  little  book  on  marriage,  me- 
thinks  you  are  acting  unwisely  ;  in  our  opinion  it  contains 
something  which  might  serve  even  a  jealous  husband  like  you 
very  well ;  for  it  says,  that  if  your  wife  refuses  to  do  your  will 
you  have  only  to  turn  to  the  maid.  Hence  keep  a  look  out  for 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  6,  p.  558  ;    "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  5,  p.  98  seq, 
"  De  captivitate  babylonica." 

2  Ibid.,  10.  2,  p.  278  ;    Erl.  ed.,  162,  p.  513  f. 

3  Dec.  28,  1525,  "  Luthers  Brief wechsel,"  5,  p.  289. 

4  Dec.    19,    1522,    "  Akten    und    Brief e    des    Herzogs    Georg    von 
Sachsen,"  ed.  F.  Gess,  1,  1905,  p.  402. 

160          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

pretty  maids.  These  and  similar  utterances  you  may  very  well 
hold  over  your  wife."1 

In  1542  Wicel,  in  his  Postils,  speaking  of  the  preachers,  says  : 
"  The  words  of  St.  Paul,  '  Art  thou  loosed  from  a  wife,  seek  not 
a  wife,'  1  Cor.  vii.  27,  have  a  very  unevangelical  sound  on 
the  lips  of  these  Evangelists.  How  then  must  it  be  ?  Quick, 
take  a  wife  or  a  husband  ;  whether  you  be  young  or  old,  make 
haste  ;  should  one  die,  don't  delay  to  take  another.  Celebrate 
the  wedding,  if  it  turns  out  ill,  then  let  the  maid  come  !  Divorce 
this  one  and  take  in  marriage  that  one,  whether  the  first  be  living 
or  dead  !  For  chambering  and  wantonness  shall  not  be  neglected," 
— "  Since  the  coming  of  Christ,"  says  the  same  writer  elsewhere, 
"  there  have  never  been  so  many  divorces  as  under  Luther's 

Of  the  unlooked-for  effects  produced  among  Luther's  preachers 
by  the  above  saying,  Sebastian  Flasch,  an  ex-Lutheran  preacher 
and  native  of  Mansfeld,  complained  in  1576  :  "  Although  the 
preachers  are  married,  yet  they  are  so  ill-content  with  their 
better  halves,  that,  appealing  to  Luther's  advice,  they  frequently, 
in  order  to  gratify  their  insatiable  concupiscence,  seduce  their 
maids,  and,  what  is  even  more  shameful,  do  not  blush  to  mis 
conduct  themselves  with  other  men's  wives  or  to  exchange  wives 
among  themselves."  He  appeals  to  his  long  experience  of 
Lutheranism  and  relates  that  such  a  "  commutatio  uxorum  "  had 
been  proposed  to  him  by  a  preacher  of  high  standing.3 — Much 
earlier  than  this,  in  1532,  Johann  Mensing,  the  Dominican,  wrote 
sadly,  that  the  state  of  matrimony  was  dreadfully  disgraced  by 
the  new  preachers  ;  "  for  they  give  a  man  two  wives,  a  woman 
two  husbands,  allow  the  man  to  use  the  maid  should  the  wife 
not  prove  compliant,  and  the  wife  to  take  another  husband  should 
her  own  prove  impotent."  "  When  they  feel  disposed  or  moved 
to  what  is  sin  and  shameful,  they  say  the  Holy  Spirit  urges  them. 
Is  not  that  a  fine  tale  that  all  the  world  is  telling  about  Melchior 
Myritsch  of  Magdeburg,  of  Jacob  Probst  of  Bremen  and  of  others 
in  the  Saxon  land.  What  certain  mothers  have  discovered  con 
cerning  their  daughters  and  maids,  who  listened  to  such  preaching, 
it  is  useless  to  relate."4 — The  name  of  the  ex-Augustinian, 
Melchior  Myritsch,  or  Meirisch,  recalls  the  coarseness  of  the 
advice  given  by  Luther,  on  Feb.  10,  1525,  to  the  latter's  new 
spouse.  (See  vol.  ii.,  p.  144.) 

1  Jan.  1,  1523,  ibid.,  p.  415.     Cp.  N.  Paulus,  "  Hist.-pol.  BI.,"  137, 
1906,  p.  56  f. 

2  "  Postille,"  Mainz,  1542,  4b.     Dollinger,  "  Die  Reformation,"  1, 
p.  52. 

3  "  Professio     catholica,"     Coloniae,     1580     (reprint),    p.     219    seq. 
Janssen-Pastor,  "  Gesch.  des  deutschen  Volkes,"  814,  p.  456.     Several 
replies   were   called   forth  by   this   over-zealous  and   extremely   anti- 
Lutheran  polemic. 

4  "  Vormeldung    der    Unwahrheit   Luterscher   Clage,"    Frankfurt/ 
Oder,  1532.      N.   Paulus,  "  Die  deutschen  Dominikaner,"  etc.,  p.  33. 


Respect  for  the  Female  Sex  in  Luther's  Conversations. 

Had  Luther,  as  the  legend  he  set  on  foot  would  make  us 
believe,  really  raised  the  dignity  of  woman  and  the  married 
state  to  a  higher  level,  we  might  naturally  expect,  that, 
when  he  has  to  speak  of  matters  sexual  or  otherwise  re 
pugnant  to  modesty,  he  would  at  least  be  reticent  and 
dignified  in  his  language.  We  should  expect  to  find  him 
surrounded  at  Wittenberg  by  a  certain  nobility  of  thought, 
a  higher,  purer  atmosphere,  a  nobler  general  tone,  in  some 
degree  of  harmony  with  his  extraordinary  claims.  Instead 
we  are  confronted  with  something  very  different.  Luther's 
whole  mode  of  speech,  his  conversations  and  ethical  trend, 
are  characterised  by  traits  which  even  the  most  indulgent 
of  later  writers  found  it  difficult  to  excuse,  and  which, 
particularly  his  want  of  delicacy  towards  women,  must 
necessarily  prove  offensive  to  all.1 

Luther  was  possibly  not  aware  that  the  word  "  nun  " 
comes  from  the  Low  Latin  "  nonna,"  i.e.  woman,  and  was 
originally  the  name  given  to  those  who  dwelt  in  the  numerous 
convents  of  Upper  Egypt ;  he  knew,  however,  well  enough 
that  the  word  "  monk  "  was  but  a  variant  of  "  monachus." 
He  jestingly  gives  to  both  the  former  and  the  latter  an 
odious  derivation.  "  The  word  nun,"  he  says,  "  comes  from 
the  German,  and  cloistered  women  are  thus  called,  because 
that  is  the  term  for  unsexed  sows  ;  in  the  same  way  the  word 
monk  is  derived  from  the  horses  [viz.  the  gelded  horses]. 
But  the  operation  was  not  altogether  successful,  for  they  are 
obliged  to  wear  breeches  just  like  other  people."2  It  may 
be  that  Catherine,  the  ex-nun,  was  present  when  this  was 
said  ;  at  any  rate  she  is  frequently  mentioned  in  the  Table- 
Talk  as  assisting.3 

He  could  not  let  slip  the  opportunity  of  having  a  dig  at  the 
ladies  who  were  sometimes  present  at  his  post-prandial  entertain 
ments.  In  1542  conversation  turned  on  Solomon's  many  wives 
and  concubines.  Luther  pointed  out,4  that  the  figures  given  in 
the  Bible  must  be  taken  as  referring  to  all  the  women  dwelling  in 
the  palace,  even  to  such  as  had  no  personal  intercourse  with 
Solomon.  "  One  might  as  well  say,"  he  continues,  '  Dr.  Martin 

1  Cp.  above,  p.  152  f. 

2  Cordatus,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  340.     Mathesius,  "  Aufzeichnungen," 
p.  252. 

3  Cp.,  for  instance,  present  work,  vol.  iii.,  p.  268,  and  vol.  ii.,  p.  378. 

4  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  281. 

IV.— M 

162          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

has  three  wives  ;  one  is  Katey,  another  Magdalene,  the  third  the 
pastoress ;  also  a  concubine,  viz.  the  virgin  Els.1  This  made 
him  laugh  [writes  the  narrator,  Caspar  Heydenreich]  ;  and 
besides  these  he  has  many  girls.  In  the  same  way  Solomon  had 
three  hundred  queens  ;  if  he  took  only  one  every  night,  the  year 
would  be  over,  and  he  would  not  have  had  a  day's  rest.  That 
cannot  be,  for  he  had  also  to  govern."2 

He  advised  that  those  who  were  troubled  with  doubts  con 
cerning  their  salvation  should  speak  of  improper  subjects 
("  loquaris  de  venereis"),  that  was  an  infallible  remedy.3  In 
one  such  case  he  invited  a  pupil  to  jest  freely  with  his  own  wife, 
Catherine.  "  Talk  about  other  things,"  Luther  urges  him, 
"  which  entirely  distract  your  thoughts."4 

As  we  know,  Luther  himself  made  liberal  use  of  such  talk  to 
cheer  up  himself  and  others.  Thus,  in  the  presence  of  his  guests, 
in  1537,  he  joked  about  Ferdinand,  the  German  King,  his  extreme 
thinness  and  his  very  stout  wife  who  was  suspected  of  misconduct  : 
"  Though  he  is  of  such  an  insignificant  bodily  frame,"  he  says, 
"  others  will  be  found  to  assist  him  in  the  nuptial  bed.  But  it  is 
a  nuisance  to  have  the  world  filled  with  alien  heirs."5 — This  leads 
him  to  speak  of  adulteresses  in  other  districts. 6 

A  coarser  tale  is  the  one  he  related  about  the  same  time.  A 
minister  came  to  him  complaining  of  giddiness  and  asking  for  a 
remedy.  His  answer  was  :  "  Lass  das  Loch  daheime,"  which, 
so  the  narrators  explain,  meant,  "  that  he  should  not  go  to  such 
excess  in  chambering."7 — A  similar  piece  of  advice  is  given  by 
Luther  in  the  doggerel  verses  which  occur  in  his  Table-Talk  : 
"  Keep  your  neck  warm  and  cosy, — Do  not  overload  your  belly. — 
Don't  be  too  sweet  on  Gertie  ;— Then  your  locks  will  whiten 
slowly."8 — On  one  occasion  he  showed  his  friends  a  turquoise 
("  turchesia  "),  which  had  been  given  him,  and  said,  following  the 
superstition  of  the  day,  that  when  immersed  in  water  it  would 
make  movements  "  sicut  isti  qui  eveniunt  juveni  cum  a  virgine  in 
chorea  circumfertur,"  but,  that,  in  doing  so,  it  broke.9  On  account 
of  the  many  children  he  had  caused  to  be  begotten  from  priests 
and  religious,  he,  as  we  already  know,  compared  himself  to 
Abraham,  the  father  of  a  great  race  :  He,  like  Abraham,  was 

1  This  was  Elisabeth  Kaufmann,  a  niece  of  Luther's,  yet  unmarried, 
who  lived  with  her  widowed  sister  Magdalene  at  the  Black  Monastery. 
The   "  pastoress  "   was  the  wife  of  the  apostate  priest  Bugenhagen, 
Pastor  of  Wittenberg,  who,  during  Bugenhagen's  absence  in  Brunswick, 
seems    to    have    enjoyed    the    hospitality    of   the    same    great    house. 
The    "  many   girls  "    are   Luther's   servants   and   those   of    the    other 

2  Aurifaber  suppressed  the  end  of  this  conversation.    Cp.  "  Werke," 
Erl.  ed.,  61,  p.  201. 

3  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  3,  p.  221. 

4  Cp.  vol.  iii.,  p.  175  f.     Cp.  p.  179. 

5  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  390. 

6  Cp.  vol.  v.,  xxxi.,  5. 

7  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  396.  8  Ibid.,  p.  415. 
9  Ibid.,  p.  405  f. 


the  grandfather  of  all  the  descendants  of  the  monks,  priests  and 
nuns  and  the  father  of  a  mighty  people.1 

We  may  not  pass  over  here  Luther's  frequent  use  of  filthy 
expressions,  which,  though  they  agree  well  with  his  natural 
coarseness,  harmonise  but  ill  with  the  high  ideals  we  should  ex 
pect  in  one  whose  vocation  it  was  to  rescue  marriage  and  feminine 
dignity  from  the  slough  of  the  Papacy.  He  is  fond  of  using  such 
words  in  his  abuse  of  the  Popish  teaching  on  marriage  :  At  one 
time,  he  writes,  the  Papists  make  out  marriage  to  be  a  Sacra 
ment,  "  at  another  to  be  impure,  i.e.  a  sort  of  merdiferous 
Sacrament."2  The  Pope,  who  waywardly  teaches  this  and  other 
doctrines,  "  has  overthrown  the  Word  of  God  "  ;  "  if  the  Pope's 
reputation  had  not  been  destroyed  by  the  Word  of  God,  the 
devil  himself  would  have  ejected  him"  ('  a  posteriori  ').3  Else 
where  he  voices  his  conviction  as  to  the  most  fitting  epithet  to 
apply  to  the  Pope's  "  human  ordinances."  One  thing  in  man, 
he  explains,  viz.  "the  ''anus,'  cannot  be  bound;  it  is  determined 
to  be  master  and  to  have  the  upper  hand.  Hence  this  is  the  only 
thing  in  man's  body  or  soul  upon  which  the  Pope  has  not  laid 
his  commands."4 

"  The  greatest  blessing  of  marriage,"  he  tells  his  friends,  "  lies 
in  the  children  ;  this  D.G.  [Duke  George]  was  not  fated  to  see  in 
his  sons,  '  quos  spectatissima  principissa  cacatos  in  lucem  ederat.'  "5 

The  Pope  and  his  people,  he  says  in  a  sermon,  had  "  condemned 
and  rejected  matrimony  as  a  dirty,  stinking  state."  "  Had  the 
creation  of  human  beings  been  in  the  Pope's  power  he  would 
never  have  created  woman,  or  allowed  any  such  to  exist  in  the 
world."6  "  The  Pope,  the  devil  and  his  Church,"  he  says  in  1539, 
"  are  hostile  to  the  married  state.  .  .  .  Matrimony  [in  their 
opinion]  is  mere  fornication."7 

The  Pope,  he  says,  had  forbidden  the  married  state  ;  he 
and  his  followers,  "  the  monks  and  Papists,"  "  burn  with 
evil  lust  and  love  of  fornication,  though  they  refuse  to  take 
upon  themselves  the  trouble  and  labour  of  matrimony."8 
"  With  the  help  of  the  Papacy  Satan  has  horribly  soiled 
matrimony,  God's  own  ordinance  "  ;  the  fact  was,  the  clergy 
had  been  too  much  afraid  of  woman  ;  "  and  so  it  goes  on  :  If 

1  Cordatus,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  426.     See  vol.  iii.,  p.  273.     Akin  to  this 
is  his  self-congratulation  (above,  p.  46),  that  he  works  for  the  increase 
of  mankind,  whereas  the  Papists  put  men  to  death. 

2  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  252,  p.  430. 

3  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  405. 

4  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  388. 

5  Ibid.,  61,  p.    193.     The  last  words  are  omitted  in  the  two  old 
editions  of  the  Table-Talk  by  Selnecker  and  Stangwald. 

6  Ibid.,   202,   p.    365.     At   the  marriage  of  the  apostate  Dean  of 

7  Ibid.,  2o2,  p.  373  ;    cp.  p.  369  and  above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  251,  n.  3. 

8  Ibid.,  61,  p.  204  (Table-Talk). 

164          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

a  man  fears  fornication  he  falls  into  secret  sin,  as  seems  to 
have  been  the  case  with  St.  Jerome."1 

He  saw  sexual  excesses  increasing  to  an  alarming  extent 
among  the  youth  of  his  own  party.  At  table  a  friend  of  the 
"  young  fellows  "  sought  to  excuse  their  "  wild,  immoral 
life  and  fornication  "  on  the  ground  of  their  youth  ;  Luther 
sighed,  at  the  state  of  things  revealed,  and  said  :  "  Alas, 
that  is  how  they  learn  contempt  for  the  female  sex."  Con 
tempt  will  simply  lead  to  abuse  ;  the  true  remedy  for  im 
morality  was  prayerfully  to  hold  conjugal  love  in  honour.2 

Luther,  however,  preferred  to  dwell  upon  the  deep- 
seated  vice  of  an  anti-matrimonial  Papacy  rather  than  on 
the  results  of  his  teaching  upon  the  young. 

"  Every  false  religion,"  he  once  exclaimed  in  1542  in  his 
Table-Talk,3  "  has  been  denied  by  sensuality  !  Just  look 
at  the  |  !  " — [He  must  here  have  used,  says  Kroker,  "  a  term 
for  phallus,  or  something  similar,"  which  Caspar  Heyden- 
reich  the  reporter  has  suppressed.]4  "  What  else  were  the 
pilgrimages,"  Luther  goes  on,  "  but  opportunities  for 
coming  together  ?  What  does  the  Pope  do  but  wallow 
unceasingly  in  his  lusts  ?  .  .  .  The  heathen  held  marriage 
in  far  higher  honour  than  do  the  Pope  and  the  Turk.  The 
Pope  hates  marriage,  and  the  Turk  despises  it.  But  it  is 
the  devil's  nature  to  hate  God's  Word.  What  God  loves,  e.g. 
the  Church,  marriage,  civic  order,  that  he  hates.  He  desires 
fornication  and  impurity  ;  for  if  he  has  these,  he  knows  well 
that  people  will  no  longer  trouble  themselves  about  God." 

The  New  Matrimonial  Conditions  and  the  Slandered 

It  is  a  fact  witnessed  to  by  contemporaries,  particularly 
by  Catholics,  that  Luther's  unrestraint  when  writing  on 
sexual  subjects,  his  open  allusions  to  organs  and  functions, 
not  usually  referred  to,  and,  especially,  the  stress  he  laid  on 
the  irresistibility  of  the  natural  impulse,  were  not  without 
notable  effect  on  the  minds  of  the  people,  already  excited  as 
they  were. 

1  "  Werke,"  ibid.,  p.  205  (Table-Talk). 

2  Ibid.,  p.  211.  3  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  262. 

4  For  similar  instances  of  the  use  of  such  signs  see  vol.  iii.,  p.  231. 
The  Nuremberg  MS.  of  the  Mathesius  collection  substitutes  here, 
according  to  Kroker,  a  meaningless  phrase.  The  MS.  in  the  Ducal 
Library  at  Gotha,  entitled  "  Farrago  "  (1551),  omits  it  altogether. 


In  1522,  after  having  explained  his  new  views  on  divorce, 
he  puts  himself  the  question,  whether  this  "  would  not  make 
it  easy  for  wicked  men  and  women  to  desert  each  other,  and 
betake  themselves  to  foreign  parts  "  ?  His  reply  is  :  "  How 
can  I  help  it  ?  It  is  the  fault  of  the  authorities.  Why  do 
they  not  strangle  adulterers  ?  '?1 

Certain  preachers  of  Lutheranism  made  matters  worse  by 
the  fanaticism  with  which  they  preached  the  freedom  of  the 
Evangel.  So  compromising  was  their  support,  that  other 
of  Luther's  followers  found  fault  with  it,  for  instance,  the 
preacher  Urbanus  Rhegius2  It  was,  however,  impossible 
for  these  more  cautious  preachers  to  prevent  Luther's 
principles  being  carried  to  their  consequences,  in  spite  of  all 
the  care  they  took  to  emphasise  his  reserves  and  his  stricter 

The  Protestant  Rector,  J.  Rivius,  complained  in  1547  :  "If 
you  are  an  adulterer  or  lewdster,  preachers  say  .  .  .  only 
believe  and  you  will  be  saved.  There  is  no  need  for  you  to  fear 
the  law,  for  Christ  has  fulfilled  it  and  made  satisfaction  for  all 
men."  "  Such  words  seduce  people  into  a  godless  life."3 

E.  Sarcerius,  the  Superintendent  of  the  county  of  Mansfeld, 
also  bewailed,  in  a  writing  of  1555,  the  growing  desecration  of 
the  married  state  :  Men  took  more  than  one  wife  ;  this  they  did 
by  "  fleeing  to  foreign  parts  and  seeking  other  wives.  Some 
women  do  the  same.  Thus  there  is  no  end  to  the  desertions  on 
the  part  of  both  husbands  and  wives."  "  In  many  places  horrible 
adultery  and  fornication  prevail,  and  these  vices  have  become  so 
common,  that  people  no  longer  regard  them  as  sinful."  "  Thus 
there  is  everywhere  confusion  and  scandal  both  in  match-making 
and  in  celebrating  the  marriages,  so  that  holy  matrimony  is 
completely  dishonoured  and  trodden  under  foot."  "  Of  adultery, 
lewdness  and  incest  there  is  no  end."4- — These  complaints  were 
called  forth  by  the  state  of  things  in  the  very  county  where  Luther 
was  born  and  died. 

The  convert  George  Wicel,  who  resided  for  a  considerable  time 
at  Mansfeld,  had  an  opportunity  of  observing  the  effects  of 
Luther's  matrimonial  teaching  and  of  his  preaching  generally  on 
a  population  almost  entirely  Protestant.  He  writes,  in  1536  : 
"  It  is  enough  to  break  a  Christian's  heart  to  see  so  many  false 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  10,  2,  p.  289  ;   Erl.  ed.,  162,  p.  525.    On  the 
"  strangling,"  cp.  vol.  iii.,  p.  253,  n.  3. 

2  "  Wie  man  fiirsichtiglich  reden  soil,"  ed.  A.  Uckeley,  Leipzig,  1908, 
according  to  the  1536  German  ed.  ("  Quellenschriften  zur  Gesch.  des 
Protest.,"  Hft.  6). 

3  "  De  stultitia  mortalium,"  Basil.,  1557,  1,  1,  p.  50  seq.    Denifle,  I2, 
p.  287. 

4  "  Von  werlicher  Visitation,"  Eisleben,   1555,  Bl.  K.  3.      Denifle, 
I2,  p.  280. 

166          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

prophets  and  heretics  flourishing  in  Germany,  whose  comforting 
and  frivolous  teaching  fills  the  land  not  merely  with  adulterers 
but  with  regular  heathen."1  In  an  earlier  work  he  had  said  : 
"  Oh,  you  people,  what  a  fine  manner  of  life  according  to  the 
Gospel  have  you  introduced  by  your  preaching  on  Grace  !  Yes, 
they  cry,  you  would  make  of  Christ  a  Moses  and  a  taskmaster  ; 
they,  however,  make  of  Him  a  procurer  and  an  Epicurean  by 
their  sensual  life  and  knavish  example."2 

Luther,  it  is  true,  had  an  excuse  ready.  He  pleaded  that  the 
freedom  of  the  Gospel  was  not  yet  rightly  understood.  "  The 
masses,"  he  wrote  to  Margrave  George  of  Brandenburg,  on  Sep.  14, 
1531,  "  have  now  fallen  under  the  freedom  of  the  flesh,  and  there 
we  must  leave  them  for  a  while  until  they  have  satisfied  their 
lust.  Things  will  be  different  when  the  Visitation  is  in  working 
order  [the  first  Visitation  in  the  Margrave's  lands  had  taken  place 
as  early  as  1528].  It  is  quick  work  pulling  down  an  old  house, 
but  building  a  new  one  takes  longer.  .  .  .  Jerusalem,  too,  was 
built  very  slowly  and  with  difficulty.  .  .  .  Under  the  Pope  we 
could  not  endure  the  constraint,  and  the  lack  of  the  Word  ;  now 
we  cannot  endure  the  freedom  and  the  superabundant  treasure  of 
the  Gospel."3 

Amidst  all  these  disorders  Luther  found  great  consolation  in 
contemplating  the  anti-Christian  character  of  the  Popish  Church 
and  Daniel's  supposed  prophecy  of  Antichrist's  enmity  for 
woman. 4  His  preachers  only  too  eagerly  followed  in  his  footsteps. 

George  Wicel  speaks  of  the  preachers,  who,  while  themselves 
leading  loose  lives,  used  Daniel's  prophecy  against  the  Catholic 
view  of  marriage.5  "They  mock  at  those  who  wish  to  remain 
single  or  who  content  themselves  with  one  wife,  and  quote  the 
words  of  Daniel  :  '  He  shall  not  follow  the  lust  of  wromen  nor 
regard  any  gods,'  so  that  anyone  belonging  to  this  sect  who 
is  not  addicted  to  the  pursuit  of  women,  is  hardly  safe  from 
being  taken  for  Antichrist.  The  words  of  St.  Paul  in  Cor.  vii., 
of  Our  Lord  in  Mat.  xix.,  concerning  the  third  sex  of  the  eunuchs, 
and  of  St.  John  in  Apoc.  xiv.,  on  those  who  have  not  defiled 
themselves  with  women,  and,  again,  of  St.  Paul  when  speaking 
of  the  '  vidua  digama  '  in  1  Tim.  v.,  don't  count  a  farthing  in 
this  Jovinian  school.6  ...  It  is  an  Epicurean  school  and  an 
Epicurean  life  and  nothing  else."  With  biting  satire,  in  part 

1  "  Annotationen  zu  den  Propheten,"   2,   Eisleben,   1536,   fol.   88. 
Dollinger,  "  Die  Reformation,"  1,  p.  48. 

2  "  Ein    unviberwindlicher    griindlicher    Bericht    was    die    Recht- 
fertigung  in  Paulo  sei,"  Leipzig,  1533.     Dollinger,  ibid.,  p.  40. 

3  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  54,  p.  253  ("  Briefwechsel,"  9,  p.  103). 

4  Dan.  xi.,  37.    Cp.  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  64,  p.  155. 

5  "  Annotationen  zum  A.T.,"  2,  fol.  198'.     Dollinger,  ibid.,  p.  106. 

6  The  passages  referred  to  are,  according  to  the  text  of  the  Vulgate  : 
1  Cor.  vii.  32  :    "  Qui  sine  uxore  est,  sollicitus  est  quce  Domini  sunt," 
etc.    Ibid.,  38  :    "  Qui  non  iungit  (virginem  suam)  melius  facit."    Ibid., 
40:  "  Beatior  erit,  si  sic  permanserit,"  etc.    Mat.  xix.  12:  "  Sunt  eunuchi, 
gui  se  ipsos  castraverunt  propter  regnum  Dei.     Qui  potest  capere  capiat." 
Apoc.  xiv.  3  f.,  of  those  who  sing  "  the  new  song  before  the  throne  "  of 


the  result  of  the  controversy  thrust  upon  him,  in  part  the  out 
come  of  his  temper,  he  had  declared  shortly  before,  that 
Lutheranism  was  all  "  love  of  women,"  was  "  full  of  senseless 
lust  for  women  "  ;  he  uses  "  gynecophiles  "  as  an  adjective  to 
qualify  it,  and  speaks  of  its  "gynecomania  "  ;  by  this  means  men 
were  to  become  better  Christians,  and  be  more  secure  of  salvation 
than  all  the  Saints  of  God  ever  were  in  the  ancient  apostolic 
Church.  "See  there  what  Satan  is  seeking  by  means  of  this 
exalted  respect  for  the  love  of  women,  and  by  his  glib,  feminist 
preachers  in  Saxony.  Hence  his  and  his  followers'  concern  for 
women,  to  whom  they  cling  so  closely  that  they  can  hardly  get 
into  their  pulpits  without  them,  and,  rather  than  live  a  celibate 
life,  the  Evangelist  would  prefer  to  be  the  husband,  not  of  one 
wife,  but  of  three  or  four."1 

An  intimate  friend  of  Luther's,  Johann  Brenz,  wrote,  in  1532, 
in  a  book  to  which  Luther  supplied  the  Preface  :  "  The  youngsters 
are  barely  out  of  the  cradle  before  they  want  wives,  and  girls, 
not  yet  marriageable,  already  dream  of  husbands."2 — After  the 
immoral  atmosphere  has  brought  about  their  fall,  writes  Fr. 
Staphylus,  "  they  grow  so  impudent  as  to  assert  that  a  chaste 
and  continent  life  is  impossible  and  the  gratification  of  the 
sexual  appetite  as  essential  as  eating  and  drinking."3 — The  same 
author,  who  returned  to  the  Catholic  Church,  also  wrote,  in  1562  : 
"  So  long  as  matrimony  was  looked  upon  as  a  Sacrament, 
modesty  and  an  honourable  married  life  was  loved  and  prized, 
but  since  the  people  have  read  in  Luther's  books  that  matrimony 
is  a  human  invention  ...  his  advice  has  been  put  in  practice 
in  such  a  way,  that  marriage  is  observed  more  chastely  and 
honourably  in  Turkey  than  amongst  our  German  Evangelicals."4 

The  list  of  testimonies  such  as  these  might  be  considerably 
lengthened. 5 

the  Lamb  :  "  Hi  sunt,  qui  cum  mulieribus  non  sunt  coinquinati,  virgines 
enim  sunt.  Hi  sequuntur  agnum  quocunque  ierit.  Hi  empti  sunt  ex 
hominibus  primitice  Deo  et  Agno."  1  Tim.  v.  12,  of  those  widows 
dedicated  to  God  who  marry  :  "  Habentes  damnationem,  qui  primam 
fidem  irritam  fecerunt."  —  Against  Jovinian  St.  Jerome  wrote,  in  392  : 
"Adv.  lovinianum  "  ("  P.L.,"  23,  col.  211  seq.),  where,  in  the  first 
part,  he  defends  virginity,  which  the  former  had  attacked,  and  demon 
strates  its  superiority  and  its  merit. 

1  "  Annotationen  zum  A.T.,"  2,  1536,  fol.  198',  on  Daniel  xi.,  37.. 
Dollinger,  ibid.,  p.  105  f. 

2  "  Homilise    XXII,"    Vitebergse,     1532.       Denifle,    "  Luther    und 
Luthertum,"  I2,  p.  278. 

3  "  De    corruptis    moribus    utriusque   partis,"  Bl.   F.   III.     In  the 
title  page  the  author's  name  is  given  as  Czecanovius  ;    this  is  identical 
with  Staphylus,  as  N.  Paulus  has  shown  in  the  "  Katholik,"  1895,  1, 
p.  574  f. 

4  F.    Staphylus,    "  Nachdruck    zu    Verfechtung    des    Buches    vom 
rechten  Verstandt  des  gottlichen  Worts,"  Ingolstadt,   1562,  fol.  202'. 

5  Cp.  the  quotations  in  Denifle  (I2,  Preface,  p.  15  ff.),  commencing 
with  one  from  Billicanus  :    "  By  the  eternal  God,  what  fornication  and 
adultery  are  we  not  forced  to  witness  "  ;  also  those  on  pp.  282  ff.,  805  f. 

168          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

It  would,  however,  be  unfair,  in  view  of  the  large  number 
of  such  statements,  to  shut  our  eyes  to  the  remarkable 
increase,  at  that  time,  in  the  immorality  already  prevalent 
even  in  Catholic  circles,  though  this  was  due  in  great  measure 
to  the  malignant  influence  of  the  unhappy  new  idea  of  freedom, 
and  to  that  contempt  for  ecclesiastical  regulations  as  mere 
human  inventions,  which  had  penetrated  even  into  regions 
still  faithful  to  the  Church.1  Owing  to  the  general  confusion, 
ecclesiastical  discipline  was  at  a  standstill,  evil-doers  went 
unpunished,  nor  could  moral  obligations  be  so  regularly  and 
zealously  enforced.  It  is  true  that  favourable  testimonies 
arc  not  lacking  on  both  sides,  but  they  chiefly  refer  to 
remote  Catholic  and  Protestant  localities.  As  is  usual,  such 
reports  are  less  noticeable  than  the  unfavourable  ones,  the 
good  being  ever  less  likely  to  attract  attention  than  the  evil. 
Staphylus  complains  bitterly  of  both  parties,  as  the  very 
title  of  his  book  proves.2  Finally,  all  the  unfavourable 
accounts  of  the  state  of  married  life  under  Lutheranism  are 
not  quite  so  bad  as  those  given  above,  in  which  moreover, 
maybe,  the  sad  personal  experience  of  the  writers  made  them 
see  things  with  a  jaundiced  eye. 

That,  in  the  matter  of  clerical  morals,  there  wras  a  great 
difference  between  the  end  of  the  15th  and  the  middle  of  the 
16th  centuries  can  be  proved  by  such  ecclesiastical  archives 
as  still  survive  ;  the  condemnations  pronounced  in  the  16th 
century  are  considerably  more  numerous  than  in  earlier  times. 

On  the  grounds  of  such  data  Joseph  Lohr  has  quite  recently 
made  a  very  successful  attempt  to  estimate  accurately  the  moral 
status  of  the  clergy  in  the  Lower  Rhine  provinces,  particularly 
Westphalia.3  He  has  based  his  examination  more  particularly 
on  the  records  of  the  Archdeaconry  of  Xanten  concerning  the 
fines  levied  on  the  clergy  for  all  sorts  of  offences.  The  accounts 
"cover  a  period  of  about  one  hundred  years."4  In  the  16th 
century  we  find  a  quite  disproportionate  increase  in  the  number 
of  offenders.  There  are,  however,  traces,  over  a  long  term  of 
years,  of  a  distinct  weakening  of  ecclesiastical  discipline  which 
made  impossible  any  effective  repression  of  the  growing  evil. 

A  glance  at  the  conditions  prevailing  in  the  15th  century  in 
the  regions  on  which  Lohr's  researches  bear  is  very  instructive. 

1  Cp.  Janssen-Pastor,  "  Gesch.  des  deutschen  Volkes,"  814,  pp. 
378  f.,  384  ff.,  392.  *  See  above,  p.  167,  11.  3. 

3  J.  Lohr,  "  Methodisch-kritische  Beitrage  zur  Gesch.  der  Sittlich- 
keit  des   Klerus,  besonders  der  Erzdiozese  Koln,   am  Ausgange  des 
MA."  ("  Reformationsgesch.  Studien  und  Texte,"  Hft.  17.  1910). 

4  Page  44. 


It  enables  us  to  see  how  extravagant  and  untrue  were — at  least 
with  regard  to  these  localities — the  frequent,  and  in  themselves 
quite  incredible,  statements  made  by  Luther  regarding  the  utter 
degradation  of  both  clergy  and  religious  owing  to  the  law  of  celi 
bacy.  "  Of  a  total  of  from  450  to  600  clergy  in  the  Archdeaconry 
of  the  Lower  Rhine  (probably  the  number  was  considerably 
higher)  we  find,  up  to  the  end  of  the  15th  century,  on  an  average, 
only  five  persons  a  year  being  prosecuted  by  the  Archdeacon 
for  [various]  offences."1  "Assuming  a  like  density  of  clergy  in 
Westphalia,  the  number  prosecuted  by  the  ecclesiastical  com 
missioner  in  1495  and  in  1499  would  amount  roughly  to  2  per  cent., 
but,  in  1515,  already  to  6  per  cent."2 

The  results  furnished  by  such  painstaking  research  are 
more  reliable  than  the  vague  accounts  and  complaints  of 
contemporaries.3  Should  the  examination  be  continued  in 
other  dioceses  it  will  undoubtedly  do  as  much  to  clear  up  the 
question  as  the  Visitation  reports  did  for  the  condition  of 
affairs  in  the  16th  century  under  Lutheranism,  though 
probably  the  final  result  will  be  different.  The  Lutheran 
Visitation  reports  mostly  corroborate  the  unfavourable 
testimony  of  olden  writers,  whereas  the  fewness  of  the 
culprits  shown  in  the  Catholic  lists  of  fines  would  seem  to 
bear  out,  at  least  with  regard  to  certain  localities,  those 
contemporaries  who  report  favourably  of  the  clergy  at  the 
close  of  the  Middle  Ages.  One  such  favourable  contemporary 
testimony  comes  from  the  Humanist,  Jacob  Wimpfeling, 
and  concerns  the  clergy  of  the  Rhine  Lands.  The  statement 
of  this  writer,  usually  a  very  severe  critic  of  the  clergy,  runs 
quite  counter  to  Luther's  general  and  greatly  exaggerated 
charges.4  "  God  knows,  I  am  acquainted  with  many,  yea, 

1  Page  59. 

2  Page   65.     That  all  offenders  without  exception  were  punished 
is  of  course  not  likely. 

3  Ibid.,  pp.  1-24. — For  the  16th  and  17th  centuries  we  refer  the  reader 
to    J.    Schmidlin,    "  Die    kirchl.    Zustande    in    Deutschland   vor    dem 
Dreissigjahrigen  Kriege  nach  den  bischoflichen  Diozesanberichten  an 
den  Heiligen  Stuhl,"  Freiburg,    1908-1911   ("  Erlauterungen  usw.  zu 
Janssens  Gesch.,"  7,  Hft.  1-10).    In  the  "  Hist.  Jahrb.,"  31,  1910,  p.  163, 
we  read  of  the  reports  contained  in  the  first  part  of  the  work  :    "  They 
commence  by  revealing  the  sad  depths  to  which  Catholic  life  had  sunk, 
but  go  on  to  show  an  ever-increasing  vigour  on  the  part  of  the  bishops, 
in  many  cases  crowned  with  complete  success." 

4  "  De   vita  et  miraculis  lohannis   Gerson"  s.l.e.a.  (1506),  B  4b  ; 
Janssen-Pastor,     I18,    p.    681.      Wimpfeling    is,    however,    answering 
the  Augustiiiian,  Johann  Paltz,  who  had  attacked  the  secular  clergy  ; 
elsewhere  he  to  the  grave  blots,  on  the  life  of  the  secular 

170          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

countless  pastors  amongst  the  secular  clergy  in  the  six 
dioceses  of  the  Rhine,  who  are  richly  equipped  with  all  the 
knowledge  requisite  for  the  cure  of  souls  and  whose  lives 
are  blameless.  I  know  excellent  prelates,  canons  and  vicars 
both  at  the  Cathedrals  and  the  Collegiate  Churches,  not  a 
few  in  number  but  many,  men  of  unblemished  reputation, 
full  of  piety  and  generous  and  humble-minded  towards  the 

Luther  himself  made  statements  which  deprive  his 
accusations  of  their  point.  Even  what  he  says  of  the 
respect  paid  to  the  clerical  state  militates  against  him.  Of 
the  first  Mass  said  by  the  newly  ordained  priest  he  relates, 
that  "  it  was  thought  much  of  "  ;  that  the  people  on  such 
occasions  brought  offerings  and  gifts  ;  that  the  "  bride 
groom's  "  "  Hours  "  were  celebrated  by  torchlight,  and 
that  he,  together  with  his  mother,  if  still  living,  was  led 
through  the  streets  with  music  and  dancing,  "  the  people 
looking  on  and  weeping  for  joy."1  It  is  true  that  he 
is  loud  in  his  blame  of  the  avarice  displayed  at  such  first 
Masses,  but  the  respect  shown  by  the  people,  and  here 
described  by  him,  would  never  have  been  exhibited  towards 
the  clergy  had  they  rendered  themselves  so  utterly  con 
temptible  by  their  immorality  as  he  makes  out. 

In  a  sermon  of  1521,  speaking  of  the  "  majority  of  the 
clergy,"  he  admits  that  most  of  them  "  \vork,  pray  and  fast 
a  great  deal  "  ;  that  they  "  sing,  speak  and  preach  of  the 
law  and  lead  men  to  many  works  "  ;  that  they  fancy  they 
will  gain  heaven  by  means  of  "  pretty  works,"  though  all 
in  vain,  so  he  thinks,  owing  to  their  lack  of  knowledge  of 
the  Evangel.2  During  the  earlier  period  of  his  change  of 
opinions  he  was  quite  convinced,  that  a  pernicious  self- 
righteousness  (that  of  the  "  iustitiarii  ")  was  rampant 
amongst  both  clergy  and  religious  ;  not  only  in  the  houses 
of  his  own  Congregation,  but  throughout  the  Church,  a 
painstaking  observance  of  the  law  and  a  scrupulous  fulfil 
ment  of  their  duty  by  the  clergy  and  monks  constituted  a 
danger  to  the  true  spirit  of  the  Gospel,  as  he  understood  it. 
It  was  his  polemics  which  then  caused  him  to  be  obsessed 
with  the  idea,  that  the  whole  world  had  been  seized  upon  by 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  400  ("  Tischreden  ").     Cp.  Lauterbach, 
"  Tagebuch,"  p.  186  :    "  Cum  summo  fletu  spectator 'urn." 

2  Ibid.,  Weim.  ed.,  7,  p.  239  ;   Erl.  ed.,  162,  p.  234. 


the  self-righteous.  It  was  his  polemics  again,  which,  later, 
made  him  regard  the  whole  world  as  full  of  immoral  clerics. 
The  extravagance  of  Luther's  utterances  in  his  fight 
against  clerical  celibacy  might  perhaps  be  regarded  as  due 
to  the  secluded  life  he  had  led  at  Wittenberg  during  the 
years  he  was  a  monk,  which  prevented  him  from  knowing 
the  true  state  of  things.  Experience  gained  by  more  exten 
sive  travel  and  intercourse  with  others  might  indeed  have 
corrected  his  views.  But,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  he  was  not 
altogether  untravelled ;  besides  visiting  Rome  and  Southern 
Germany  he  had  been  to  Heidelberg,  Worms  and  Cologne. 
His  stay  at  the  latter  city  is  particularly  noteworthy,  for 
there  he  was  in  the  heart  of  the  very  region  of  which 
Wimpfeling  had  given  so  favourable  an  account.  Can  he, 
during  the  long  journey  on  foot  and  in  his  conversations  with 
his  brother  monks  there,  not  have  convinced  himself,  that 
the  clergy  residing  in  that  city  were  by  no  means  sunk  in 
immorality  and  viciousness  ?  His  visit  to  Cologne  coincided 
in  all  probability  with  the  general  Chapter  which  Staupitz 
had  summoned  there  at  the  commencement  of  May,  1512. 
Luther  only  recalls  incidentally  having  seen  there  the  bodies 
of  the  Three  Kings ;  having  swallowed  all  the  legends  told 
him  concerning  them ;  and  having  drunk  such  wine  as  he  had 
never  drunk  before.1 

1  We  may  here  remark  concerning  Luther's  stay  at  Cologne  (passed 
over  in  vol.  i.,  p.  38  f.,  for  the  sake  of  brevity),  that  at  the  Chapter  then 
held  by  Staupitz — to  whose  party  Luther  had  now  gone  over — the  former 
probably  refrained,  in  his  official  capacity,  from  putting  in  force  his 
plans  for  an  amalgamation  of  the  and  the  Conventuals 
of  the  Saxon  Province.  There  is  no  doubt  that  Luther  came  to 
Cologne  from  Wittenberg,  whither  he  had  betaken  himself  on  his 
return  from  Rome.  After  the  Chapter  at  Cologne  he  made  prepara 
tions  for  his  promotion.  Possibly  the  project  of  securing  the  Doctorate 
was  matured  at  Cologne.  He  speaks  of  the  relics  of  the  Three  Kings  in 
a  sermon  of  January  5th,  of  which  two  accounts  have  been  preserved 
("Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  34,  1,  p.  22:  "I  have  seen  them."  "I  too 
have  seen  them  ").  In  the  so-called  "  Bibelprotokollen,"  of  1539,  he 
says  (*bid.,  p.  585)  :  "  At  Cologne  I  drank  a  wine  quod  penetrabat  in 
mensa  manum"  (which  probably  means,  was  so  fiery  that  soon  after 
drinking  it  he  felt  a  tingling  down  to  his  finger-tips).  "  Never  in  all  my 
life  have  I  drunk  so  rich  a  wine."  Cp.,  for  the  Cologne  Chapter,  Kolde, 
"  Die  deutsche  Augustinerkongregation,"  p.  242  f.,  and  for  the  same 
and  Luther's  Cologne  visit,  Walter  Kohler,  "  Christl.  Welt,"  1908, 
No.  30  ;  N.  Paulus,  "  Hist.-pol.  Bl.,"  142,  1908,  p.  749  ;  and  G. 
Kawerau,  "  Theol.  Stud,  und  Krit.,"  81,  1908,  p.  348.  Buchwald 
refers  to  a  statement  of  Luther's  on  a  monument  at  Cologne  ("  Werke," 
Erl.  ed.,  62,  p.  371="  Tischreden,"  ed.  Forstemann,  4,  p.  625)  in 
"  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  34,  2,  p.  609. 

172          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

Two  Concluding  Pictures  towards  the  History  of  Woman. 

We  may,  in  conclusion,  give  two  pictures  which  cast  a 
new  and  lurid  light  on  what  has  gone  before. 

Luther's  standpoint,  and,  no  less,  the  confusion  which 
had  arisen  in  married  life  and  the  humiliations  to  which 
many  women  were  exposed,  come  out  clearly  in  the  story  of 
his  relations  with  the  preacher  Jodocus  Kern  and  his  spouse. 
Kern,  an  apostate  monk,  had  wedded  at  Nuremberg  Ursula 
Tagler,  an  ex-nun  from  the  convent  of  Engelthal.  On  Dec. 
24,  1524,  Luther  joyously  commended  him  as  "  a  monk, 
metamorphosed  into  a  married  man,"  to  the  care  of  Spalatin.1 
AVhen  Kern  went  to  Saxony  in  search  of  a  post  the  girl 
refused  to  accompany  him  until  he  had  found  employment. 
During  his  absence  she  began  to  regret  the  step  she  had 
taken,  and  the  letters  she  received  from  her  former  Prioress 
determined  her  to  return  no  more  to  her  husband.  The 
persuasion  of  her  Lutheran  relatives  indeed  induced  her  to 
go  to  Allstedt  after  Kern  had  been  appointed  successor  to 
Thomas  Miinzer  in  that  town,  but  there  her  horror  only  grew 
for  the  sacrilegious  union  she  had  contracted.  Coercion  was 
quite  fruitless.  The  minister,  at  the  advice  of  her  own 
relatives,  treated  her  very  roughly,  forced  her  to  eat  meat 
on  Good  Friday  and  refused  to  listen  when  she  urged  him  to 
return  to  the  Catholic  Church.  Having  made  an  attempt 
to  escape  to  Mansfeld,  her  case  was  brought  before  the 
secular  Courts  ;  she  was  examined  by  the  commissioner  of 
Allstedt  on  January  11,  1526,  when  she  declared,  that  it 
was  against  her  conscience  to  look  upon  Kern  as  her  husband, 
that  her  soul  was  dearer  to  her  than  her  body  and  that  she 
would  rather  die  than  continue  to  endure  any  longer  the 
bonds  of  sin.  This  the  commissioner  reported  to  the  Elector 
Johann,  and  the  latter,  on  Jan.  17,  forwarded  her  statement 
to  Luther,  together  with  Kern's  account,  for  the  purpose  of 
hearing  from  one  so  "  learned  in  Scripture  "  "  how  the 
matter  ought  to  be  treated  and  disposed  of  in  accordance 
with  God's  Holy  Writ."2 

Luther  took  a  week  to  reply  :  The  Allstedt  woman  was 
suffering  such  "  temptations  from  the  devil  and  men,  that  it 
would  verily  be  a  wonder  if  she  could  resist  them."  The 
only  means  of  keeping  her  true  to  the  Evangel  and  to  her 

*  "  Brief wechsel,"  5,  p.  86.  •  Ibid.,  p.  308. 


duty  would  be  to  send  her  to  her  people  at  Nuremberg. 
Should,  even  there,  "  the  devil  refuse  to  yield  to  God's  good 
exhortation  "  then  she  would  have  to  "  be  allowed  to  go,"  and 
"  be  reckoned  as  dead,"  and  then  the  pastor  might  marry 
another.  Out  of  the  scandal  that  the  wanton  spirit  had 
given  through  her  God  might  yet  work  some  good.  "  The 
Evangel  neither  will  nor  can  be  exempt  from  scandals."1 

The  unhappy  nun  was,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  forcibly  brought 
to  Nuremberg  and  placed  amongst  Lutheran  surroundings 
instead  of  being  conveyed  to  her  convent  at  Engelthal,  as 
the  laws  of  the  Empire  demanded.  From  thence  she  never 
returned  to  Allstedt.  Kern,  during  the  proceedings,  had 
declared  that  he  did  not  want  her  against  her  conscience, 
and  was  ready  to  submit  to  the  Word  of  God  and  to 
comply  exactly  with  whatever  this  imposed.  In  accordance 
therewith  he  soon  found  a  fresh  bride.  During  the  Visita 
tions,  in  1533,  he  was  charged  with  bigamy  and  was  repri 
manded  for  being  a  "  drinker  and  gambler,"  although  his 
industry  and  talents  were  at  the  same  time  recognised. 
Nothing  is  known  of  his  later  doings.2 

Two  open  letters  addressed  to  Luther  by  Catholics  in 
1528  form  a  companion  picture  to  the  above.  They  portray 
the  view  taken  by  many  faithful  Catholics  of  Luther's  own 

In  that  year  two  Professors  at  the  Leipzig  University, 
Johann  Hasenberg  and  Joachim  von  der  Heyden,  published 
printed  circulars  addressed  to  Luther  and  Catherine  von 
Bora,  admonishing  them — now  that  ten  years  had  elapsed 
since  Luther  first  attacked  the  Church — on  their  breaking 
of  their  vows,  their  desecration  of  the  Sacrament  of  Matri 
mony  and  their  falling  away  from  the  Catholic  faith.3  It  is 
probable  that  Duke  George  of  Saxony  had  something  to  do 
with  this  joint  attack.4  It  is  also  likely  that  hopes  of 

1  Jan.  25,  1526,  ibid.,  p.  312. 

2  Cp.  Enders  on  the  letter  last  quoted. 

3  "  Brief wechsel  Luthers,"  6,  p.  322  f.     Hasenberg's  Latin  letter, 
Aug.  10,  1528,  p.  334  ff. ;  v.  der  Heyden's  German  one  of  same  date. 

4  Cp.  Duke  George's  fierce  letter  to  Luther  of  Dec.  28,  1525  ("  Brief  - 
wechsel,"  5,  p.  285  ff.),  which  was  also  printed  forthwith.     He  will 
speak  freely   and   openly   to   him,   he   says  :     "  Seek   the   hypocrites 
amongst  those  who  call  you  a  prophet,  a  Daniel,  the  Apostle  of  the 
Germans  and  an  Evangelist."     "  At  Wittenberg  you  have  set  up  an 
asylum  where  all  the  monks  and  nuns  who,  by  their  robbing  and 

174          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

sterner  measures  on  the  part  of  the  Imperial  authorities  also 
helped  to  induce  the  writers  to  put  pen  to  paper.1  In  any 
case  it  was  their  plan,  vigorously  and  before  all  the  world, 
to  attack  the  author  of  the  schism  in  his  most  vulnerable 
spot,  where  it  would  not  be  easy  for  him  to  defend  himself 
publicly.  Master  Hasenberg,  a  Bohemian,  was  one  of 
George's  favourites,  who  had  made  him  three  years  previously 
Dean  of  the  Faculty  of  Arts.  He  addressed  his  open 
letter  to  "  Martinus  Luderus,"  the  "  destroyer  of  the 
public  peace  and  piety."  Von  der  Heyden,  known  in  Latin 
as  Myricianus  or  Phrisomynensis  (a  Frisian  by  birth),  was 
likewise  a  Master,  and  Papal  and  academic  Notary  at 
Leipzig.  Of  the  two  he  was  the  younger.  His  letter  was 
addressed  to  "  Khete  von  Bhore,  Luther's  pretended  wife," 
and  served  as  preface  to  a  printed  translation  he  had  made 
of  the  work :  "  De  lapsu  virginis  consecratce,"  then  attributed 
to  St.  Ambrose.2  Both  epistles,  according  to  one  of  the 
answers,  must  have  been  despatched  by  special  messenger 
and  delivered  at  Luther's  house.  They  drew  forth  printed 
replies,  some  of  which  can  be  traced  to  Luther  himself,  while 
Euricius  Cordus  ridiculed  the  writers  in  a  screed  full  of 
biting  epigram. 

The  Leipzig  letters,  the  first  of  Avhich  was  also  published 
in  German,  made  a  great  sensation  in  German  circles  and 
constituted  an  urgent  exhortation  to  thousands  of  apostates 
estranged  from  the  Church  by  Luther's  new  doctrine  on 
Christian  freedom  and  on  the  nullity  of  vows. 

Relentlessly  Hasenberg  put  to  Luther  the  questions  :  "  Who 
has  blasphemously  slandered  the  pious  promise  of  celibacy  which 
priests,  religious  and  nuns  made  to  God,  and  which,  throughout 
the  ages,  had  been  held  sacred  ?  Luderus.  Who  has  shrouded 

stealing,  deprive  us  of  our  churches  and  convents  find  refuge."  "  When 
have  more  acts  of  sacrilege  been  committed  by  people  dedicated  to 
God  than  since  your  Evangel  has  been  preached  ?  "  Did  not  Christ 
say  :  "  By  their  fruits  you  shall  know  them  "  ?  All  the  great  preachers 
of  the  faith  have  been  "  pious,  respectable  and  truthful  men,  not 
proud,  avaricious  or  unchaste."  "  Your  marriage  is  the  work,  not  of 
God,  but  of  the  enemy.  .  .  .  Since  both  of  you  once  took  an  oath  not 
to  commit  unchastity  lest  God  should  forsake  you,  is  it  not  high  time 
that  you  considered  your  position  ?  "  —  The  greater  part  of  the  letter  was 
incorporated  by  Cochlaeus  in  his  Acta  (p.  119). 

1  On  p.  336  von  der  Heyden  says  :    Luther  is  "  beginning  to  draw 
in  his  horns  and  is  in  great  fear  lest  his  nun  should  be  unyoked." 

2  Nicetas,  Bishop  of  Romatiana,  may  be  the  author  of  this  anony 
mous  work,  printed  in  "  P.L.,"  16,  col.  367-384. 


in  darkness  free-will,  good  works,  the  ancient  and  unshaken  faith, 
and  that  jewel  of  virginity  which  shines  more  brightly  than  the 
sun  in  the  Church  ?  Luderus.  .  .  .  Do  you  not  yet  see,  you 
God-forsaken  man,  what  all  Christians  think  of  your  impudent 
behaviour,  your  temerity  and  voluptuousness  ?  " 

Referring  to  the  sacrilegious  union  with  Bora,  he  proceeds  : 
"  The  enormity  of  your  sin  is  patent.  You  have  covered  yourself 
with  guilt  in  both  your  private  and  public  life,  particularly  by 
your  intercourse  with  the  woman  who  is  not  your  wife."  In  his 
indignation  he  does  not  shrink  from  comparing  the  ex-nun  to  a 
lustful  Venus.  He  thunders  against  Luther  :  "  You,  a  monk, 
fornicate  by  day  and  by  night  with  a  nun  !  And,  by  your  writings 
and  sermons,  you  drag  down  into  the  abyss  with  you  ignorant 
monks  and  unlearned  priests,  questionable  folk,  many  of  whom 
were  already  deserving  of  the  gallows.  Oh,  you  murderer  of  the 
people!"  "Yes,  indeed,  this  is  the  way  to  get  to  heaven — or 
rather  to  Lucifer's  kingdom  !  Why  not  say  like  Epicurus  :  There 
is  no  God  and  no  higher  power  troubles  about  us  poor  mortals  ? 
Call  upon  your  new  gods,  Bacchus,  Venus,  Mars,  Priapus,  Futina, 
Potina,  Subigus  and  Hymenseus."  His  wish  for  Luther's  spouse 
is,  that  she  may  take  to  heart  the  touching  words  of  St.  Ambrose 
to  the  fallen  nun,  so  as  not  to  fall  from  the  abyss  of  a  vicious  life 
into  the  abyss  of  everlasting  perdition  prepared  "  for  the  devil  and 
his  Lutheran  angels."  And  again,  turning  to  Luther  :  "  Have 
pity,"  he  says,  "  on  the  nun,  have  compassion  on  the  concubine 
and  the  children,  your  own  flesh  and  blood.  Send  the  nun  back 
to  the  cloistral  peace  and  penance  which  she  forsook  ;  free  the 
unhappy  creature  from  the  embraces  of  sin  and  restore  her  to 
her  mother  the  Church  and  to  her  most  worthy  and  loving 
bridegroom  Christ,  so  that  she  may  again  sing  in  unison  with  the 
faithful  the  Ambrosian  hymn  :  ',  corona  virginum.'1  .  .  . 
This  much  at  least,  viz.  the  dismissal  of  the  nun,  you  cannot 
refuse  us,  however  blindly  you  yourself  may  hurry  along  the  sad 
path  you  have  chosen.  All  the  faithful,  linked  together  through 
out  the  world  by  the  golden  chain  of  charity,  implore  you  with 
tears  of  blood ;  so  likewise  does  your  kind  Mother,  the  Church, 
and  the  holy  choirs  of  Angels,  who  rejoice  over  the  sinner  who 
returns  penitent." 

The  writer,  who  seasons  his  counsel  with  so  much  bitterness, 
had  plainly  little  hope  of  the  conversion  of  the  man  he  was 
addressing  ;  his  attack  was  centred  on  Catharine  Bora.  This 
was  even  more  so  the  case  with  von  der  Heyden,  a  man  of  lively 
character  who  delighted  in  controversy  ;  even  from  his  first 
words  it  is  clear  that  he  had  no  intention  of  working  on  her  kindlier 
feelings  :  "  Woe  to  you,  poor  deluded  woman."  He  upbraids  her 
with  her  fall  from  light  into  darkness,  from  the  vocation  of  the 
cloister  into  an  "  abominable  and  shameful  life  "  ;  by  her 
example  she  has  brought  "  many  poor,  innocent  children  into  a 
like  misery  "  ;  formerly  they  had,  as  nuns,  "  lived  in  discipline 

1  For  the  full  text  of    this  anonymous  hymn  (incorporated  in  the 
Office  for  Virgins  in  the  Breviary),  see  "  P.L.,"  16,  col.  1221. 

176         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

and  purity,"  now  they  are  "  not  merely  in  spiritual  but 
in  actual  bodily  want,  nay,  the  poorest  of  the  poor  and  have 
become  the  most  despicable  of  creatures."  Many  of  them  now 
earned  a  living  in  "  houses  of  ill-fame,"  they  were  frequently 
forced  to  pawn  or  sell  their  poor  clothing,  and  sometimes  them 
selves  ;  they  had  hoped  for  the  true  freedom  of  the  spirit  that 
had  been  promised  them,  and,  instead,  they  had  been  cast  into 
a  "  horrible  bondage  of  soul  and  body."  Luther  "  in  his  pesti 
lential  writings  had  mistaken  the  freedom  of  the  flesh  for  the 
true  liberty  of  the  spirit,  in  opposition  to  St.  Paul,  who  had  based 
this  freedom  solely  on  the  Spirit  of  the  Lord,  as  in  2  Cor.  iii.  17  : 
'  Where  the  Spirit  of  God  is,  there  is  liberty  '  Luther's  preach 
ing  on  liberty  was  one  big  lie,  and  another  was  his  opinion  that 
the  "  vow  of  virginity,  where  it  was  observed,  was  wicked  and 
sinful,  which  statement  was  contrary  to  God  and  the  whole  of 
Scripture,"  and  more  particularly  opposed  to  St.  Paul,  who 
strongly  condemned  those  who  broke  their  plighted  faith  to 
Christ  ;  St.  Paul  had  quite  plainly  recommended  clerical  celibacy 
when  he  wrote,  that  he  who  is  without  a  wife  is  solicitous  for  the 
things  that  are  the  Lord's,  but  that  the  husband  is  solicitous  for 
the  things  of  the  world,  how  best  he  may  please  his  wife  (1  Cor. 
vii.  32  f.). 

Your  "  Squire  Luther,"  he  says  to  Bora,  "  behaves  himself 
very  impudently  and  proudly  "  ;  "he  fancies  he  can  fly,  that  he 
is  treading  on  roses  and  is  '  lux  mundi  '  "  ;  he  forgets  that  God 
has  commanded  us  to  keep  what  we  have  vowed  ;  people  gladly 
obeyed  the  Emperor,  yet  God  was  "  an  Emperor  above  all 
Emperors,"  and  had  still  more  right  to  fealty  and  obedience. 
Was  she  ignorant  of  Christ's  saying  :  "  No  man  having  put  his 
hand  to  the  plough  and  looking  back  is  fit  for  the  Kingdom  of 
God  "  (Luke  ix.  62)  ?  He  reminds  her  of  the  severe  penalties 
imposed  by  the  laws  of  the  Empire  on  those  religious  who  were 
openly  unfaithful  to  their  vow,  and,  particularly,  of  the  eternal 
punishment  which  should  move  her  to  leave  the  "  horrid,  black 
monk  "  (the  Augustinians  wrore  a  black  habit),  to  bewail  like 
"  St.  Magdalene  the  evil  she  had  done  "  and,  by  returning 
to  the  convent,  to  make  "  reparation  for  her  infidelity  to  God." 
St.  Ambrose's  booklet  on  the  fallen  nun  might  lead  her,  and  her 
companions  in  misfortune,  to  a  "  humble  recognition  "  (of  their 
sin),  "  and  enable  her  to  flee  from  the  swift  wrath  of  God  and 
return  to  the  fold  of  Christ,  attain  to  salvation  together  with  us 
all  and  praise  the  Lord  for  all  eternity." 

We  catch  a  glimpse  of  the  gulf  which  divided  people's 
minds  at  that  time  in  the  very  title  of  the  reply  by  Euricius 
Cordus  :  "  The  Marburg  literary  society's  peal  of  laughter 
over  the  screed  against  Luther  of  two  Leipzig  poets."1 

1  "  Literarii  sodalitii  apud  Marpuryam  aliquot  cachinni  super 
quodam  duorum  Lypsiensium  poetarum  in  Lutherum  scripto  libello 
effusi  "  (Marburgse),  1528. 


Two  satirical  and  anonymous  replies  immediately  appeared 
in  print  at  Wittenberg,  the  one  entitled  :  "  New-Zeittung 
von  Leyptzig,"  of  which  Luther  "  was  not  entirely  innocent," 
and  the  other  quite  certainly  his  work,  viz.  "  Ein  newe  Fabel 
Esopi  newlich  verdeudscht  gefunden."1  In  the  first  reply 
spurious  epistles  are  made  to  relate  how  the  two  Leipzig 
letters  had  been  brought  by  a  messenger  to  Luther's  house, 
and  had  then  been  carried  by  the  servants  unread  to  the 
"  back-chamber  where  it  stinketh."  "  The  paper  having 
duly  been  submitted  to  the  most  ignominious  of  uses  it  was 
again  packed  into  a  bundle  and  despatched  back  to  the 
original  senders  by  the  same  messenger."2 

In  his  "  Newe  Fabel  "  (of  the  Lion  and  the  Ass)  Luther 
implicitly  includes  von  der  Heyden,  all  the  defenders  of 
the  Pope,  and  the  Pope  himself  under  the  figure  of  the  Ass 
(with  the  cross  on  its  back)  ;  "  there  is  nothing  about  the 
Ass  that  is  not  worthy  of  royal  and  papal  honours."3  The 
author  of  the  letter  he  calls  an  ass's  head  and  sniveller  ;  the 
very  stones  of  Leipzig  would  spit  upon  him ;  he  was  the 
"  horse-droppings  in  which  the  apples  were  packed  "  ;  his 
art  had  brought  on  him  "  such  an  attack  of  diarrhoea  that 
all  of  us  have  been  bespattered  with  his  filth  "  ;  "  If  you  wish 
to  devour  us,  you  might  begin  downstairs  at  the  commode," 

We  find  nothing  in  either  writing  in  the  nature  of  a  reply — 
of  which  indeed  he  considered  the  Leipzig  authors  unworthy 
— except  the  two  following  statements  :  firstly,  Luther  had 
sufficiently  instructed  his  faithful  wife,  and  the  world  in 
general,  "that  the  religious  life  was  wrong";5  secondly, 
Ambrose,  Jerome,  or  whoever  wrote  the  booklet,  "  had 
stormed  and  raved  like  a  demon  "  in  that  work,  which  was 
"  more  heretical  than  Catholic,  against  the  nun  who  had 
yielded  to  her  sexual  instincts  ;  he  had  not  spoken  like  a 
Doctor,  .  .  .  but  as  one  who  wished  to  drive  the  poor 
prostitute  into  the  abyss  of  hell ;  a  murderer  of  souls  pitted 
against  a  poor,  feeble,  female  vessel."6  Hence  Luther's 
views  are  fairly  apparent  in  the  replies. 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  26,  p.  539  ff.  (with  the  editor's  opinion  on 
the  authorship)  ;    Erl.  ed.,  64,  pp.  324-337. 

2  Ibid.,   p.    540=339.      The   writing  aptly  concludes:     "...  tuo, 
vates,  carmine  tergo  nates." 

3  Ibid.,  p.  548=  330.  4  Ibid.,  547=  327  f . 

5  Ibid.,  p.  544=344.  «  Ibid.,  p.  553  f.  =  335  f. 

IV.  — N 

178         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

The  Church,  yea,  even  the  Church  of  the  earliest  times, 
was  made  to  bear  the  curse  of  having  degraded  woman  and 
of  having,  by  the  religious  life,  declared  war  on  marriage. 

A  contemporary,  Petrus  Silvius,  who  read  Luther's 
writings  with  indignation  and  disgust,  wrote,  in  1530  : 
"  Luther,  with  his  usual  lies  and  blasphemy,  calumniates  the 
Christian  Church  and  now  says,  that  she  entirely  rejected 
and  condemned  matrimony."1 

In  what  has  gone  before  these  falsehoods  concerning  the 
earlier  degradation  and  his  own  exaltation  of  woman  have 
been  refuted  at  some  length  ;  the  detailed  manner  in  which 
this  was  done  may  find  its  vindication  in  the  words  of  yet 
another  opponent  of  Luther's,  H.  Sedulius,  who  says  :  "It 
must  be  repeated  again  and  again,  that  it  is  an  impudent  lie 
to  say  we  condemn  marriage."2 

1  "  Sermones  dominicales  des  gnadenreichen  Predigers  Andree 
Prolis  "  (with  notes),  Leipzig,  1530,  fol.  K.  4'. 

"  Apologeticus  adv.   Alcoranum  Franciscanorum  pro  Libra   Con- 
formitatum,"  Antverpise,  1607,  p.  101. 


DUKE  GEORGE  (f  1539) 

1.  Luther  and  Erasmus  Again 

IN  reply  to  Luther's  "  De  servo  arbitrio  "  against  Erasmus 
the  latter  had  published,  in  1526,  a  sharp  retort  entitled 
"  Hyperaspistes,"  which,  in  the  following  year,  he  enlarged 
by  adding  to  it  a  second  part.1  In  this  work  the  author's 
able  pen  brings  into  the  light  of  day  the  weakness  of  Luther's 
objections,  his  distortion  of  the  Church's  teaching,  his 
frequent  misrepresentations  of  Erasmus  and  his  own  self- 

Luther  did  not  then  reply  to  the  work  of  the  chief  of  the 
Humanists.  In  the  ensuing  years,  however,  he  became  pain 
fully  aware  that  the  hostility  of  Erasmus  had  lost  him  many 
adherents  belonging  to  the  Erasmian  school.  A  great 
cleavage  had  become  apparent  in  the  scholar's  circle  of 
friends  till  then  so  closely  united,  the  greater  number  taking 
their  master's  side  against  the  smaller  group  which  remained 
true  to  Luther.  It  was  in  vain  that  several  of  Erasmus's 
admirers  intervened  and  besought  Luther  to  spare  the 
feelings  of  the  elder  man.  The  Wittenberg  professor  made 
many  cutting  allusions  to  his  opponent  and  assumed  more 
and  more  an  attitude  which  foreboded  another  open  out 
burst  of  furious  controversy. 

With  the  art  peculiar  to  him,  he  came  to  persuade  himself, 

that  the  champion  of  free-will  was  hostile  to  the  idea  of 

any  Divine  supremacy  over  the  human  will,  scoffed  at  all 

religion,    denied   the    Godhead    and    was    worse    than    any 

persecutor  of  the  Church  ;    he  was  confirmed  in  this  belief 

by  the  sarcastic  sayings  about  his  Evangel,  to  which  Erasmus 

gave   vent   in   his   correspondence   and   conversations,    and 

which  occasionally  came  to  Luther's  knowledge.     It  is  true 

1  "  Opp.,"  ed.  Lugd.,  9,  col.  1249  seq. 


180          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

that  if  we  look  at  the  matter  through  Luther's  spectacles  we 
can  understand  how  certain  darker  sides  of  Erasmus  and 
his  Humanist  school  repelled  him.  Luther  fixed  on  these, 
and,  as  was  his  wont,  harshly  exaggerated  and  misrepre 
sented  them.  The  too-great  attention  bestowed  on  the 
outward  form,  seemingly  to  the  detriment  of  the  Christian 
contents,  displeased  him  greatly  ;  still  more  so  did  the 
undeniable  frivolity  with  which  sacred  things,  still  dear  to 
him,  Avere  treated.  At  the  same  time  it  was  strange  to  him, 
and  rightly  so,  how  little  heed  the  Humanists  who  remained 
faithful  to  the  Church  paid  to  the  principle  of  authority  and 
of  ecclesiastical  obedience,  preferring  to  follow  the  lax 
example  set  by  Erasmus  himself,  more  particularly  during 
the  first  period  of  his  career  ;  they  appeared  to  submit  to 
the  yoke  of  the  Church  merely  formally  and  from  force  of 
habit,  and  showed  none  of  that  heart-felt  conviction  and 
respect  for  her  visible  supremacy  which  alone  could  win  the 
respect  of  those  without.1 

Schlaginhaufen  has  noted  down  the  following  remark  made  by 
Luther  in  1532  when  a  picture  of  Erasmus  was  shown  him. 
"  The  cunning  of  his  mode  of  writing  is  perfectly  expressed  in 
his  face.  He  does  nothing  but  mock  at  God  and  religion.  When  he 
speaks  of  our  Holy  Christ,  of  the  Holy  Word  of  God  and  the  Holy 
Sacraments,  these  are  mere  fine,  big  words,  a  sham  and  no  reality. 
.  .  .  Formerly  he  annoyed  and  confuted  the  Papacy,  now  he 
draws  his  head  out  of  the  noose."2  In  the  same  year,  and 
according  to  the  same  reporter,  he  declared  :  "  Erasmus  is  a 
knave  incarnate.  .  .  .  Were  I  in  good  health,  I  should  inveigh 
against  him.  To  him  the  Father,  Son  and  Holy  Ghost  are  some 
thing  ludicrous.  .  .  .  Erasmus  is  as  sure  there  is  no  God  as  I 
am  that  I  can  see.  Lucian  himself  was  not  so  bold  and  impudent 
as  Erasmus."3 

At  Easter  of  the  following  year  Veit  Dietrich,  who  lived  in 
Luther's  house,  announced  in  a  letter  to  Nuremberg,  that  the 
storm  was  about  to  break  :  Luther  was  arming  himself  against 
Erasmus,  reading  his  books  carefully  and  gathering  together 
his  blasphemies.  The  same  writer  in  a  collection  of  Luther's 
conversations  not  yet  published  quotes  the  following  outbursts  : 
"  Erasmus  makes  use  of  ambiguities,  intentionally  and  with 
malice,  this  I  shall  prove  against  him.  .  .  .  Were  I  to  cut  open 
Erasmus's  heart,  I  should  find  nothing  but  mockeries  of  the 
Trinity,  the  Sacraments,  etc.  To  him  the  whole  thing  is  a 

1  See  vol.  ii.,  p.  242  ff. 

2  Schlaginhaufen,  "  Aufzeichmmgen,"  p.  29.          3  Ibid.,  p.  96  f. 
4  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  311. 


And  yet,  at  that  very  time,  Erasmus,  who,  as  years  passed, 
had  come  to  regret  his  earlier  faults  of  the  pen,1  was  engaged 
in  composing  serious  and  useful  works,  in  which,  though  not 
unfaithful  to  his  older  style,  he  sought  to  defend  the  dogmas  of 
religion  and  the  authority  of  the  Church.  In  March  his  "  Expla- 
natio  symboli,  decalogi  et  dominicce  precationis  "  was  issued  at 
Basle  by  Froben  ;  another  important  work  of  the  same  year, 
appearing  in  the  guise  of  an  exposition  of  Psalm  Ixxxiv.,  contained 
counsels  how  best  to  restore  the  unity  of  the  Church  and  to  root 
out  abuses.  Therein  he  does  not  deny  the  duty  of  submitting 
to  the  Church,  but  recommends  both  sides  to  be  ready  to  give 
and  take. 

When  Luther's  little  son  Hans  had,  in  his  Latin  lessons,  to 
study  some  works  composed  by  Erasmus  for  the  young,  his 
father  wrote  out  for  him  the  following  warning  :  "  Erasmus  is  a 
foe  to  all  religion  and  an  arch-enemy  of  Christ  ;  he  is  the  very 
type  of  an  Epicurus  and  Lucian.  This  I,  Martin  Luther,  declare 
in  my  own  handwriting  to  you,  my  very  dear  son  Johann,  and, 
through  you,  to  all  my  children  and  the  holy  Church  of  Christ."2 

Luther's  pent-up  wrath  at  length  vented  itself  in  print. 
He  had  received  a  letter  sent  him  from  Magdeburg,  on  Jan. 
28,  1534,  by  Nicholas  Amsdorf,  the  old  friend  who  knew  so 
well  how  to  fan  the  flames  of  enthusiasm  for  the  new  teach 
ing,  and  who  now  pointed  out  Erasmus  as  the  source  whence 
George  Wicel  had  drawn  all  his  material  for  his  latest 
attack  on  Lutheranism.3  It  was  high  time,  he  wrote,  that 
Luther  should  paint  Erasmus  "  in  his  true  colours  and  show 
that  he  was  full  of  ignorance  and  malice."  This  he  would 
best  do  in  a  tract  "  On  the  Church,"  for  this  was  the 
Erasmians'  weak  point  :  They  stick  to  the  Church,  because 
"  bishops  and  cardinals  make  them  presents  of  golden 
vessels,"  and  then  "  they  cry  out  :  Luther's  teaching  is 
heresy,  having  been  condemned  by  Emperor  and  Pope." 
"  I,  on  the  other  hand,  see  all  about  me  the  intervention  and 
the  wonders  of  God  ;  I  see  that  faith  is  a  gift  of  God  Who 
works  when  and  where  He  wills,  just  as  he  raised  His  Son 
Christ  from  the  dead.  Oh,  that  you  could  see  the  country 
folk  here  and  admire  in  them  the  glory  of  Christ  !  " 

The  letter  pleased  Luther  so  well  that  he  determined  to 
print  it,  appending  to  it  a  lengthy  answer  to  Amsdorf,  both 
being  published  together.4 

In  this  answer,  before  launching  out  into  invective  against 

1  See  vol.  ii.,  p.  249  ff. 

2  "  Luthers  Brief wechsel,"  9,  p.  368  f.  3  Ibid.,  p.  382. 
«  Ibid.,  10,  p.  8  ff.,  about  March  11,  1534. 

182          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

Erasmus  he  joins  in  his  friend's  enthusiastic  praise  of  the 
Evangel  which  has  dawned  :  "  Our  cause  was  heard  at 
Augsburg  before  the  Emperor  and  the  whole  world,  and  has 
been  found  blameless  ;  they  could  not  but  recognise  the 
purity  of  our  teaching.  .  .  .  We  have  confessed  Christ 
before  the  evil  generation  of  our  day,  and  He  too  will  confess 
us  before  God  the  Father  and  His  angels."  "  Wicel,  I  shall 
vanquish  by  silence  and  contempt,  as  my  custom  is.  How 
many  books  I  have  disposed  of  and  utterly  annihilated 
merely  by  my  silence,  Eck,  Faber,  Emser,  Cochlscus  and 
many  others  could  tell.  Had  I  to  fight  with  filth,  I  should, 
even  if  victorious,  get  dirty  in  the  process.  Hence  I  leave 
them  to  revel  in  their  blasphemy,  their  lying  and  their 

He  might,  he  proceeds,  leave  Erasmus  too  to  dissolve 
into  smoke  like  those  others.  For  a  long  time  past  he  had 
looked  on  him  as  one  crazy  ("  delirus  ")  ;  since  he  had 
given  birth  to  the  "  viperaspides  "  (i.e.  "  brood  of  vipers," 
a  play  on  the  title  of  the  "  Hyperaspistes ")  he  had 
given  up  all  hopes  of  his  theology,  but  would  follow 
Amsdorf's  advice  and  expose  his  malice  and  ignorance 
to  the  \vorld. 

In  contradiction  to  the  facts  he  goes  on  to  declare,  that, 
in  his  "  Explanatio  symboli,"  of  1533,  Erasmus  had  "  slyly 
planned  "  to  undermine  all  respect  for  the  Christian 
doctrines,  and  for  this  purpose  ingratiated  himself  with  his 
readers  and  sought  to  befool  them,  as  the  serpent  did  in 
Paradise.  The  Creed  was  nothing  to  him  but  a  "  fable,"- 
in  support  of  which  Luther  adduces  what  purports  to  be  a 
verbal  quotation — nothing  but  the  "  mouthpiece  and  organ 
of  Satan  "  ;  his  method  was  but  "  a  mockery  of  Christ  "  ; 
according  to  him,  the  Redeemer  had  come  into  the  world 
simply  to  give  an  example  of  holiness  ;  His  taking  flesh  of 
a  virgin  Erasmus  described  in  obscene  and  blasphemous 
language  ;  naturally  the  Apostles  fared  no  better  at  his 
hands,  and  he  even  said  of  John  the  Evangelist,  "  meros 
crepat  mundos  "  (because  he  mentions  the  "  world  "  too 
often)  :  there  were  endless  examples  of  this  sort  to  be  met 
with  in  the  writings  of  Erasmus.  He  was  another  Demo- 
crites  or  Epicurus  ;  even  what  was  doubtful  in  his  state 
ments  had  to  be  taken  in  the  worst  sense,  and  he  himself 
(Luther)  would  be  unable  to  believe  this  serpent  even 


should  he  come  to  him  with  the  most  outspoken  confession 
of  Christianity. 

All  this  he  wrote  seemingly  with  the  utmost  conviction,  as 
though  it  were  absolutely  certain.  At  about  that  same  time 
he  sent  a  warning  to  his  friend  Amsdorf  not  to  allege  any 
thing  against  Erasmus,  which  was  not  certain,  should  he  be 
tempted  to  write  against  him.1  Yet  Luther's  fresh  charges 
were  undoubtedly  unjust  to  his  opponent,  although  his 
letter  really  does  forcibly  portray  much  that  was  blame 
worthy  in  Erasmus,  particularly  in  his  earlier  work,  for 
instance,  his  ambiguous  style  of  writing,  so  often  intention 
ally  vague  and  calculated  to  engender  scepticism.2 

Not  even  in  Luther's  immediate  circle  did  this  letter  meet 
with  general  approval.  Melanchthon  wrote,  on  March  11, 

1534,  to  Camerarius  :    "  Our  Arcesilaus  [Luther]  is  starting 
again  his  campaign  against  Erasmus  ;    this  I  regret ;    the 
senile  excitement  of  the  pair  disquiets  me."3    On  May  12, 

1535,  he   even   expressed   himself   as   follows   to   Erasmus, 
referring  to  the  fresh  outbreak  of  hostilities  :   "  The  writings 
published   here   against  you  displease  me,   not  merely  on 
account  of  my  private  relations  with  you,  but  also  because 
they  do  no  public  good."4 

Boniface  Amerbach,  a  friend  of  Erasmus's,  sent  Luther's 
letter  to  his  brother,  calling  it  a  "  parum  sana  epistola,"  and 
adding,  "  Hcrvagius  [the  Basle  printer]  told  me  recently 
that  Luther,  for  more  than  a  year,  had  been  suffering  from 
softening  of  the  brain  ('  cephalcea  '),  I  think  the  letter  proves 
this,  and  also  that  he  has  not  yet  recovered,  for  in  it  there  is 
no  trace  of  a  sound  mind."5 

Recent  Protestant  historians  speak  of  the  letter  as  "on 
the  whole  hasty  and  dictated  by  jealousy,"6  and  as  based 
"  in  part  on  inaccurate  knowledge  and  a  misapprehension  of 
Erasmus's  writings."7 

1  On  March  31,  1534,  "  Brief wechsel,"  10,  p.  36. 

2  At   the    conclusion    Luther   says    of    the    young    people  :     "  Hoc 
levitate   et  vanitate  paulatim  desuescit   a  religione,   donee  abhorreat  et 
penitus  profanescat.'1'1     And  :    "  Dominus  noster  lesus,  quern  mihi  Pctrus 
non  tacet  Deum,  sed  in  cuius  virtute  scio  et  certus  sum  me  scepius  a  morte 
liberatum,  in  cuius  fide  hcec  omnia  incepi  et  hactemis  effeci,  quce  ipsi 
hostes  mirantur,  ipse  custodial  et  liberet  nos  in  finem.    Ipse  est  Dominus 
Deus  noster  verus." 

3  "  Corp.  ref.,"  2,  p.  709  :    yepovriKa  wadtj.  4  Ibid.,  3,  p.  69. 

5  On  April  15,  1534,  Burckhardt-Biedermann,  "  Bonif.  Amerbach," 
1894,  p.  297.     Eiiders,  "  Luthers  Brief  wechsel,"  10,  p.  24. 

6  Enders,  ibid.,  p.  23.  7  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  312. 

184          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

Shortly  after  this  Luther  expressed  himself  with  rather 
more  moderation  in  a  Preface  which  he  composed  for 
Anton  Corvinus's  reply  to  Erasmus's  proposals  for  restoring 
the  Church  to  unity.  In  this  writing  he  sought  to  make  his 
own  the  more  moderate  tone  which  dominated  Corvinus's 
works.  He  represented  as  the  chief  obstacle  to  reunion  the 
opinion  prevalent  amongst  his  opponents  of  the  considera 
tion  due  to  the  Church.  Their  one  cry  was  "  the  Church, 
the  Church,  the  Church  "  ;  this  has  confirmed  Erasmus  in 
his  unfounded  opposition  to  the  true  Evangel,  in  spite  of 
his  having  himself  thrown  doubt  on  all  the  doctrines  of  the 
Church.1  He  could  not  as  yet  well  undertake  a  work  on  the 
subject  of  the  Church,  such  as  Amsdorf  wished,  as  he  was 
fully  occupied  with  his  translation  of  the  Bible.  In  the 
Preface  referred  to  above  he  announced,  however,  his 
intention  of  doing  so  later.  The  result  was  his  "  Von  den 
Conciliis  und  Kirchen,"  of  1539,  which  will  be  treated  of 
below. 2 

Erasmus  was  unwilling  to  go  down  to  the  grave  bearing 
the  calumnies  against  his  faith  which  Luther  had  heaped 
upon  him.  He  owed  it  to  his  reputation  to  free  himself  from 
these  unjust  charges.  This  he  did  in  a  writing  which  must 
be  accounted  one  of  the  most  forcible  and  sharpest  which 
ever  left  his  pen.  The  displeasure  and  annoyance  which  he 
naturally  felt  did  not,  however,  interfere  with  his  argument 
or  prevent  him  from  indulging  in  sparkling  outbursts  of  wit. 
Amerbach  had  judged  Luther's  attack  "  insane  "  ;  Erasmus, 
for  his  part,  addressed  his  biting  reply  to  "  one  not  sober." 
The  title  of  the  writing,  published  at  Basle  in  1534,  runs  : 
"  Purgatio  adversus  epistolam  non  sobriam  M.  Lutheri."3 

It  was  an  easy  matter  for  Erasmus  to  convict  the  author 
of  manifest  misrepresentation  and  falsehood. 

He  repeatedly  accuses  the  writer  of  downright  lying.  What 
he  charges  me  with  concerning  my  treatment  of  the  Apostle 
John,  "  is  a  palpable  falsehood.  Never,  even  in  my  dreams,  did 
the  words  which  he  quotes  as  mine  enter  my  mind."  Such  a  lie 
he  can  have  "  welded  together  "  only  by  joining  two  expressions 
used  in  other  contexts.4 

As  for  his  alleged  blasphemy  concerning  Christ's  birth  from 

1   "  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  7,  p.  526  seq. 

"  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  252,  p.  278  ff.  3  "  Opp.,"  3,  col.  1494  seq. 

*  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p,  663,  admits  that  Luther's  charge  wag 
"  groundless," 


the  Virgin  Mary,  Erasmus  protests  :  "I  can  swear  I  never  said 
anything  of  the  kind  either  in  a  letter,  as  Luther  makes  out, 
though  he  fails  to  say  which,  or  in  any  of  my  writings."  Moreover 
he  was  a  little  surprised  to  find  Luther,  whose  own  language  was 
not  remarkable  for  modesty,  suddenly  transformed  into  a 
champion  of  cleanliness  of  speech  :  "  Everything,  bridegroom, 
bride  and  even  best  man,  seems  of  a  sudden  to  have  become 
obscene  to  this  Christian  Luther,"  etc, 

Erasmus  also  points  out  that  the  passage  concerning  the  Creed 
being  a  mere  fable  had  been  invented  by  Luther  himself  by  means 
of  deliberate  "  distortion  "  and  shameful  misinterpretation  : 
"  No  text,"  he  exclaims,  "  is  safe  from  his  calumny  and  mis 
representation."  As  for  what  Luther  had  said,  viz.  that  "  who 
ever  tells  untruths  lies  even  when  he  speaks  the  truth,"  and  that 
he  would  refuse  to  believe  Erasmus  even  were  he  to  make  an 
orthodox  profession  of  faith,  Erasmus's  retort  is  :  "  Whoever 
spoke  this  bit  of  wisdom  was  assuredly  out  of  his  senses  and 
stood  in  need  of  hellebore  "  (the  remedy  for  madness).  As  to 
the  charge  of  deliberately  leading  others  into  infidelity  he  does 
not  shrink  from  telling  Luther,  that  "  he  will  find  it  easier  to 
persuade  all  that  he  has  gone  mad  out  of  hatred,  is  suffering 
from  some  other  form  of  mental  malady,  or  is  led  by  some  evil 

Luther  took  good  care  to  say  nothing  in  public  about  the 
rebuff  he  had  received  from  Erasmus  ;  nor  did  he  ever  make 
any  attempt  to  refute  the  charge  of  having  "  lied." 

In  the  circle  of  his  intimate  friends,  however,  he  inveighed 
all  the  more  against  the  leader  of  the  Humanists  as  a  sceptic 
and  seducer  to  infidelity. 

After  Erasmus's  death  he  declared  that,  till  his  end  (1536),  he 
lived  "  without  God."  He  refused  to  give  any  credence  to  the 
report  that  he  had  displayed  faith  and  piety  at  the  hour  of  death. 
Erasmus's  last  words  were  :  "  Jesus  Christ,  Son  of  God,  have 
mercy  on  me.  I  will  extol  the  mercies  of  the  Lord  and  His 
judgments."2  Luther,  on  the  other  hand,  in  his  Latin  Table- 
Talk  says  :  "  He  died  just  as  he  lived,  viz.  like  an  Epicurean, 
without  a  clergyman  and  without  comfort.  .  .  .  '  Securissime 
vixit,  sicut  etiam  morixit,'  "  he  adds  jestingly.  "  Those  pious 
words  attributed  to  him  are,  sure  enough,  an  invention."3 

1  Most  of  the  above  passages  from  Erasmus's  reply  are  quoted  by 
Enders,  p.  25  ff.     The  outspoken  passage  last  quoted  is  given  in  Latin 
in  vol.  hi.,  p.  136.  n.  2. 

2  Quoted  by  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  663,  p.  313,  n.  1. 

3  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1,  p.  275  :    "  Vixit  et  decessit  ut  Epicureua 
sine  oliquo  ministro  et  consolatione.   .   .   .  Multa  quidem  prceclara  scripsit, 
habuit  ingenium  prcestantissimum,  otium  tranquillum.  .  .  .  In  agone  non 
expetivit  ministrum  verbi  neque  sacramenta,  et  fortasse  ilia  verba  sues 
confessionis  in  agone  '  Fili  Dei  miserere  mei  '  illi  afflnguntur."     Cp, 
Luther's  words  in  1544  in  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  343  ;  '•'•  He  died. 

186          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

Erasmus,  he  says, — revealing  for  once  the  real  ground  of  all 
his  hatred — "  might  have  been  of  great  service  to  the  cause  of 
the  Evangel  ;  often  was  he  exhorted  to  this  end.  .  .  .  But  he 
considered  it  better  that  the  Gospel  should  perish  and  not  be 
preached  than  that  all  Germany  should  be  convulsed  and  all 
the  Princes  be  troubled  with  risings."  "  He  refuses  to  teach 
Christ,"  he  said  of  him  during  his  lifetime  ;  "he  does  not  take  it 
seriously,  that  is  the  way  with  all  Italians  and  with  them  he  has 
had  much  intercourse.  One  page  of  Terence  is  better  than  his 
whole  '  Dialogus  '  or  his  '  Colloquium  '  ;  he  mocks  not  only  at 
religion  but  even  at  politics  and  at  public  life.  He  has  no  other 
belief  than  the  Roman  ;  he  believes  what  Clement  VII  believes  ; 
this  he  does  at  his  command,  and  yet  at  the  same  time  sneers  at 
it.  ...  I  fear  he  will  die  the  death  of  the  wicked."1  After  the 
scholar's  decease,  Luther  naturally  desired  to  find  his  prophecy 

An  obvious  weapon,  one  constantly  employed  against 
Luther  by  his  foes,  was  to  twit  him  with  his  lies  ;  a  reply 
addressed  to  him  in  1531  by  a  friend  of  George  of  Saxony, 
Franz  Arnoldi  of  Collen,  near  Meissen,  was  no  exception  to  the 
rule.  In  this  little  work  entitled  "  Antwort  auf  das  Biich- 
lein,"  etc.,  it  is  not  merely  stated  that  Luther,  in  his  "  Auff 
das  vermeint  Keiserlich  Edict,"  had  put  forward  "  as 
many  lies  as  there  were  words,"2  but  it  is  also  pointed  out 
that  the  Augsburg  Edict,  "  which  is  truly  Christian  and 
requires  no  glosses,"  had  been  explained  by  him  most 
abominably  and  shamefully,  and  given  a  meaning  such  as 
His  Imperial  Majesty  and  those  who  promulgated  or 
executed  it  had  never  even  dreamt  of."3  "  He  promises  us 
white  and  gives  us  black.  This  has  come  down  to  him  from 
his  ancestor,  the  raging  devil,  who  is  the  father  of  lies.  .  .  . 
With  such  lies  does  Martin  Luther  seek  to  deck  out  his 
former  vices."4 

'  sine  crux  et  sine  lux  '  "  ;  here  again  Luther  says  he  had  been  the 
cause  of  many  losing  body  and  soul  and  had  been  the  originator  of  the 
Sacramentarians.  See  our  vol.  ii.,  p.  252,  n.  1,  for  further  details  of 
Erasmus's  end.  We  read  in  Mathesius,  p.  90  (May,  1540)  :  "  The 
Doctor  said  :  He  arrogated  to  himself  the  Divinity  of  which  he 
deprived  Christ.  In  his  '  Colloquia  '  he  compared  Christ  with  Priapus 
[Kroker  remarks  :  '  Erasmus  did  not  compare  Christ  with  Priapus  '], 
he  mocked  at  Him  in  his  '  Catechism  '  ['  Symbolum  '],  and  particu 
larly  in  his  execrable  book  the  '  Farragines.'  " 

1  See  the  whole  passage  in  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1,  p.  272  seq, 
"  Luthors  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  252,  p.  89.     See  above,  p.  101. 

3  "  Werke,"  ibid.,  p.  92.  4  Ibid. 

DUKE   GEORGE   OF   SAXONY        187 

2.  Luther  on  George  of  Saxony  and  George  on  Luther 

The  hostile  relations  between  Luther  and  Duke  George  of 
Saxony  found  expression  at  the  end  of  1525  in  a  corre 
spondence,  which  throws  some  light  on  the  origin  and 
extent  of  the  tension  and  on  the  character  of  both  men.  The 
letters  exchanged  were  at  once  printed  and  spread  rapidly 
through  the  German  lands,  one  serving  to  enlist  recruits  to 
Luther's  standard,  the  other  constituting  a  furious  attack 
on  the  innovations.1 

Luther's  letter  of  Dec.  21,  1525,  to  the  Duke,  "  his 
gracious  master,"  was  "  an  exhortation  to  join  the  Word 
of  God,"  as  the  printed  title  runs.  Sent  at  a  time  when  the 
peasants,  after  their  defeat,  had  deserted  Luther,  and  when 
the  latter  was  attaching  himself  all  the  more  closely  to  those 
Royal  Courts  which  were  well  disposed  towards  him,  the 
purpose  of  the  letter  was  to  admonish  the  chief  opponent 
of  the  cause,  "  not  so  barbarously  to  attack  Christ,  the 
corner-stone,"  but  to  accept  the  Evangel  "  brought  to  light 
by  me."  He  bases  his  "  exhortation  "  on  nothing  less  than 
the  absolute  certainty  of  his  mission  and  teaching. 
"  Because  I  know  it,  and  am  sure  of  it,  therefore  I  must, 
under  pain  of  the  loss  of  my  own  soul,  care,  beg  and  implore 
for  your  Serene  Highness 's  soul."  He  had  already  diligently 
prayed  to  God  to  "  turn  his  heart,"  and  he  was  loath  now 
"  to  pray  against  him  for  the  needs  of  the  cause  "  ;  his 
prayers  and  those  of  his  followers  were  invincibly  powerful, 
yea,  "  stronger  than  the  devil  himself,"  as  the  failure  of  all 
George's  and  his  friends'  previous  persecutions  proved, 
"  though  men  do  not  see  or  mark  God's  great  wonders 
in  me." 

It  is  hard  to  believe  that  the  author,  in  spite  of  all  he  says, 
really  expected  his  letter  to  effect  the  conversion  of  so 
energetic  and  resolute  an  opponent ;  nevertheless,  his 
assurances  of  his  peaceable  disposition  were  calculated  to 
promote  the  Lutheran  cause  in  the  public  eye,  whatever  the 
answer  might  be.  He  will,  he  says  in  this  letter,  once  again 
"  beseech  the  Prince  in  a  humble  and  friendly  manner, 
perhaps  for  the  last  time  "  ;  George  and  Luther  might  soon 
be  called  away  by  God  ;  "I  have  now  no  more  to  lose  in 

1  Luther  to  Duke  George,  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  53,  p.  338  ff.  ("  Brief- 
wechsel,"  5,  p.  281,  with  amended  date  and  colophon).  George  to 
Luther,  "  Brief wechsel,"  5,  p.  285  ff. 

188          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

this  world  but  my  carcase,  which  each  day  draws  closer  to 
the  grave."  Formerly  he  had,  it  is  true,  spoken  "harshly 
and  crossly  "  to  him,  as  God  also  does  "  to  those  whom  He 
afterwards  blesses  and  consoles  "  ;  he  had,  however,  also 
published  "  many  kindlier  sermons  and  booklets  in  which 
everyone  might  discern  that  I  mean  ill  to  no  one  but  desire 
to  serve  every  man  to  the  best  of  my  ability." 

The  letter  partook  of  the  nature  of  a  manifesto,  intended 
to  place  the  Catholic-minded  Prince  publicly  in  the  wrong, 
if  it  did  not,  as  was  hardly  to  be  expected,  draw  him  over 
to  the  side  of  the  innovators. 

The  Duke  replied,  on  Dec.  28,  in  a  manner  worthy  of  his 
status  in  the  Empire  and  of  the  firm  attitude  he  had  main 
tained  so  far.  "  As  a  layman  "  he  refused  to  enter  upon  a 
"  Scriptural  disputation  "  with  Luther  ;  it  was  not  untrue 
that  Luther  had  attacked  him  "  harshly  and  contrary  to  the 
ordinance  of  God  and  the  command  of  the  Gospel  "  ;  Luther 
might,  if  he  chose,  compare  his  former  severity  with  that  of 
God,  but  he  certainly  would  not  find,  "  in  the  Gospels  or 
anywhere  in  Scripture,"  abusive  epithets  such  as  he  em 
ployed  ;  for  him,  as  a  sovereign,  to  have  had  to  put  up  with 
such  treatment  from  a  man  under  the  ban  of  the  Empire, 
had  cost  him  much  ;  he  had  been  compelled  to  put  pressure 
on  himself  to  accept  "  persecution  for  justice'  sake."  Luther's 
"  utterly  shameful  abuse  of  our  most  gracious  Lord,  the 
Roman  Emperor,"  made  it  impossible  for  him  to  be  Luther's 
"  gracious  master." 

Formerly,  so  George  admits,  when  Luther's  writings  "  first 
appeared,  some  of  them  had  pleased  him.  Nor  were  we  displeased 
to  hear  of  the  Disputation  at  Leipzig,  for  we  hoped  from  it  some 
amendment  of  the  abuses  amongst  Christians."  Luther,  how 
ever,  in  his  very  hearing  at  Leipzig,  had  advanced  Hussite  errors, 
though  he  had  afterwards  promised  him  privately  to  "  write 
against  them  "  in  order  to  allay  any  suspicion  ;  in  spite  of  this  he 
had  written  in  favour  of  Hus  and  against  the  Council  of  Constance 
and  against  "  all  our  forefathers." 

He,  for  his  part,  held  fast  to  the  principle,  "  that  all  who  acted 
in  defiance  of  obedience  and  separated  themselves  from  the 
Christian  Churches  were  heretics  and  should  be  regarded  as  such, 
for  so  they  had  been  declared  by  the  Holy  Councils,  all  of  which 
you  deny,  though  it  does  not  beseem  you  nor  any  Christian." 
Hence  he  would  "  trouble  little  "  about  Luther's  Evangel,  but 
would  continue  to  do  his  best  to  exclude  it  from  his  lands. 

"  One  cause  for  so  doing  is  given  us  in  the  evil  fruit  which 
springs  from  it  ;  for  neither  you  nor  any  man  can  say  that  aught 


but  blasphemy  of  God,  of  the  Blessed  and  Holy  Sacrament,  of 
the  most  Holy  Mother  of  God  and  all  the  Saints  has  resulted 
from  your  teaching  ;  for  in  your  preaching  all  the  heresies 
condemned  of  old  are  revived,  and  all  honourable  worship  of  God 
destroyed  to  an  extent  never  witnessed  since  the  days  of  Sergius 
[the  monk  supposed  to  have  taught  Mohammed].  When  have 
more  acts  of  sacrilege  been  committed  by  persons  dedicated  to 
God  than  since  you  introduced  the  Evangel  ?  Whence  has  more 
revolt  against  authority  come  than  from  your  Evangel  ?  When 
has  there  been  such  plundering  of  poor  religious  houses  ?  When 
more  robbery  and  thieving  ?  When  were  there  so  many  escaped 
monks  and  nuns  at  Wittenberg  as  now  ?  "l  etc. 

"  Had  Christ  wanted  such  an  Evangel,  He  would  not  have 
said  so  often  :  Peace  be  with  you  !  St.  Peter  and  St.  Paul  would 
not  have  said  that  the  authorities  must  be  obeyed.  Thus  the 
fruits  of  your  teaching  and  Evangel  fill  us  with  horror  and 
disgust.  We  are,  however,  ready  to  stake  body,  soul,  goods  and 
honour  in  defence  of  the  true  Gospel,  in  which  may  God's  Grace 
assist  us  !  " 

After  urgent  admonitions  offered  to  Luther  "  as  New- Year 
wishes,"  more  particularly  to  sever  his  connection  with  the  nun, 
he  promises  him  his  assistance  should  he  obey  him  :  "  We  shall 
spare  no  pains  to  obtain  the  clemency  of  our  most  gracious  Lord 
the  Emperor,  so  far  as  is  possible  to  us  here,  and  you  need  have 
no  fear  of  any  ill  on  account  of  what  you  have  done  against  us, 
but  may  expect  all  that  is  good.  That  you  may  see  your  way 
to  this  is  our  hope.  Amen." 

Few  Princes  were  to  suffer  worse  treatment  at  Luther's 
hands  than  Duke  George.  The  Duke  frequently  retaliated 
by  charging  Luther  with  being  a  liar. 

He  wrote,  for  instance,  in  1531,  that  Luther  simply  bore 
witness  to  the  fact  that  the  "  spirit  of  lying  "  dwelt  in  him, 
"  who  speaks  nothing  but  his  own  fabrications  and  false 
hood."  "You  forsworn  Luther,"  he  says  to  him,  "you 
who  treacherously  and  falsely  calumniate  His  Imperial 

Luther's  anger  against  the  most  influential  Prince  in  the 
Catholic  League  was  not  diminished  by  the  fact,  that  the 
Duke  severely  censured  the  real  evils  on  the  Catholic  side, 
was  himself  inclined  to  introduce  reforms  on  his  own,  and 
even,  at  times,  to  go  too  far.  Such  action  on  George's  part 
annoyed  Luther  all  the  more,  because  in  all  this  the  Duke 
would  not  hear  of  any  relinquishing  of  ancient  dogma. 
Hence  we  find  Luther,  quite  contrary  to  the  real  state  of  the 

1  More  in  the  same  strain  above,  p.  173,  n.  4. 

2  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  252,  p.  134. 

190         LUTHER  THE   REFORMER 

case,  abusing  George  as  follows  :  The  Duke  was  secretly  in 
favour  of  the  new  teaching  and  his  resistance  was  merely 
assumed  ;  he  was  opposed  to  the  reception  of  the  Sacra 
ment  under  both  kinds,  only  because  he  wished  to  tread 
under  foot  the  whole  teaching  of  Christ,  to  forbid  Holy 
Scripture  altogether  and  particularly  to  condemn  St.  Paul  ;l 
if  he,  Luther,  were  not  allowed  to  abuse  the  Duke,  then 
neither  might  he  call  the  devil  a  murderer  and  a  liar.2  "  He 
is  my  sworn,  personal  enemy,"  he  says,  and  proceeds  in  the 
same  vein  :  "  Had  I  written  in  favour  of  the  Pope,  he  would 
noAV  be  against  the  Pope,  but  because  I  write  against  the 
Pope,  he  fights  for  him  and  defends  him."3 

Luther,  as  his  manner  was,  announced  as  early  as  1522 
that  "  the  Judgment  of  God  would  inevitably  overtake 
him."4  When  the  Duke,  in  1539,  had  died  the  death  of  a 
Christian,  Luther  said  :  "  It  is  a  judgment  on  those  who 
despise  the  one  true  God."  "  It  is  an  example  when  a 
father  and  two  fine  grown-up  sons  sink  into  the  grave  in  so 
short  a  time,  but  I,  Dr.  Luther,  prophesied  that  Duke 
George  and  his  race  would  perish."5  There  was,  according 
to  Luther,  only  one  ray  of  hope  for  the  eternal  happiness  of 
the  Duke,  viz.  that,  when  his  son  Hans  lay  dying  in  1537, 
not  so  long  before  his  own  death,  it  was  reported  he  had 
consoled  him  in  the  Lutheran  fashion.  According  to  Luther 
he  had  encouraged  him  with  the  article  on  Justification  by 
Faith  in  Christ  and  reminded  him,  "  that  he  must  look  only 
to  Christ,  the  Saviour  of  the  world,  and  forget  his  own  works 
and  merits."6  Needless  to  say  the  pious  thoughts  suggested 
to  the  dying  man  were  simply  those  usually  placed  before 
the  mind  of  faithful  Catholics  at  the  hour  of  death. 

Luther's  imagination  and  his  polemics  combine  to  trace  a 
picture  of  Duke  George  which  is  as  characteristic  of  him 
self  as  it  is  at  variance  with  the  figure  of  the  Duke,  as 
recorded  in  history.  He  accused  the  Duke  of  misgovernment 
and  tyranny  and  incited  his  subjects  against  him  ;  and, 
in  his  worst  fit  of  indignation,  launched  against  the  Duke 

1  "Werkp,"  Erl.  ed.,  58,  p.  411,  Table-Talk. 

2  Ibid.,  31,  p.  250  ff.  3  Ibid.,  61,  p.  343,  Table-Talk. 

4  To  the  Elector  Frederick  of  Saxony,  March  5,   1522,  "  Werke," 
Erl.  ed.,  53,  p.  107  ("  Briefwechsel,"  3,  p.  296). 

5  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  61,  p.  343  f.,  Table-Talk. 

6  Ibid.,  58,  p.  412  (Table-Talk),  where  Luther  bases  his  tale  on  a 
remark  of  the  Protestant  Elector  Johaim  Frederick  of  Saxony. 

DUKE  GEORGE   OF    SAXONY       191 

the  booklet  "  Widder  den  Meuchler  zu  Dresen  "  (1531). 1 
Yet  the  Saxons  generally  did  not  regard  the  Duke's  govern 
ment  as  tyrannical  or  look  upon  him  as  an  "  assassin,"  not 
even  the  Lutherans  who  formed  the  majority.  On  the 
contrary,  they  were  later  on  to  acknowledge,  that,  under 
the  Duke's  reign,  they  had  enjoyed  "  prosperity  and  peace  " 
with  the  Emperor,  amongst  themselves  and  with  their 
neighbours.  His  firmness  and  honour  were  no  secret  to  all 
who  knew  him.  The  King  of  France  admired  his  dis 
interestedness,  when,  in  1532,  he  rejected  the  proffered 
yearly  pension  of  at  least  5000  Gulden  which  was  to  detach 
him  from  the  Empire.  At  the  Diet  of  Worms  this  Catholic 
Duke  had  been  the  most  outspoken  in  condemning  the 
proposal  made,  that  Luther  should  be  refused  a  safe  conduct 
for  his  return  journey  ;  he  pointed  out  how  much  at  variance 
this  was  with  German  ways  and  what  a  lasting  shame  it 
would  bring  on  the  German  Princes.  As  for  the  rest  he 
favoured  the  use  of  strong  measures  to  safeguard  Germany 
from  religious  and  political  revolution.  He  also  befriended, 
more  than  any  other  German  Prince  or  Bishop,  those 
scholars  who  attacked  Luther  in  print. 

After  the  appearance  of  the  libel  "  Widder  den  Meuchler 
zu  Dresen,"  he  wrote  a  reply  entitled  "  About  the  insulting 
booklet  which  Martin  Luther  has  published  against  the 
Dresden  murderer,"  though  it  was  issued  in  1531,  not  under 
his  own  name,  but  under  that  of  Franz  Arnoldi.2 

The  work  is  more  a  vindication  of  the  Empire's  Catholic 
standpoint  and  of  the  honour  of  the  Catholics  against 
Luther's  foul  suspicions  and  calumnies,  than  a  personal 
defence  of  his  own  cause.  It  is  couched  in  the  language  we 
might  expect  from  a  fighter  and  a  sovereign  pelted  with 
filth  before  the  eyes  of  his  own  subjects.  It  hails  expressions 
of  the  roughest  against  Luther,  the  convicted  "  rebel  against 
the  Emperor  and  all  authority,"  the  inventor  of  "  slimy 
fabrications  and  palpable  lies "  not  worth  an  answer, 
amongst  which  was  the  "  downright  false  "  assertion,  that 
"  the  Papists  are  up  in  arms  "  against  the  Protestant 
Estates.3  In  order  to  understand  its  tone  we  must  bear  in 
mind  Luther's  own  method  of  belabouring  all  his  foes  with 
the  coarsest  language  at  his  command. 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  30,  3,  p.  413  ff.  ;    ErJ.  cd.,  252,  p.   108  ff. 
See  our  vol.  ii.,  p.  295  f. 

2  "  Luthers  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  252,  p.  129  ff.  3  P.  135. 

192         LUTHER  THE   REFORMER 

At  the  beginning  of  his  writing  the  Duke  says  of  Luther's 
abuse  :  "If  both  Lutherans  and  Papists  could  be  reformed  by 
vituperation  and  abuse,  cursing  and  swearing,  then  His  Imperial 
Roman  Majesty,  Christian  kings,  princes  and  lords  would  have 
had  no  need  of  a  scholar  ;  plenty  other  people,  for  instance, 
worn-out  whores,  tipsy  boors  and  loose  knaves,  might  have  done 
it  just  as  well  without  any  assistance  or  help  of  yours."1 

The  following,  taken  from  the  Duke's  writing,  carries  us  back 
into  the  very  thick  of  the  excitement  of  those  years  : 

"  Who  is  the  man  who,  contrary  to  God,  law,  justice  and  all 
Scripture  and  knowledge,  has  sacrilegiously  robbed,  stolen  and 
taken  from  Christ  all  the  possessions  bestowed  upon  Him 
hundreds  of  years  ago  by  emperors,  kings,  princes,  lords,  counts, 
knights,  nobles,  burghers  and  peasants,  all  of  whom,  out  of 
fervent  love  and  appreciation  for  His  sacred  Passion,  His  rosy 
blood  and  guiltless  death,  gave  their  gifts  for  the  establishment 
of  monasteries,  parish-churches,  altars,  cells,  hospitals,  mortuaries, 
guilds,  roods,  etc.,  etc.  ?  Why,  Squire  Martin,  Dr.  Luther  ! — 
Who  has  plundered  and  despoiled  the  poor  village  clergy — who 
were  true  pastors  of  the  Church,  ministers  of  the  Sacraments, 
preachers  and  guides  of  souls — of  their  blood  and  sweat,  their 
hardly  earned  yearly  stipend,  nay,  their  sacred  gifts  such  as  tithes, 
rents,  offerings  and  Church  dues,  and  that  without  any  permission 
of  the  Ordinaries  and  contrary  to  God,  to  honour  and  to  justice  ? 
Why,  Dr.  Pig-trough  Luther  ! — Who  has  robbed,  plundered 
and  deprived  God  during  the  last  twelve  years  of  so  many 
thousand  souls  and  sent  them  down  with  bloody  heads  to 
Lucifer  in  the  abyss  of  hell  ?  Who,  but  the  arch-murderer  of 
souls,  Dr.  Donkey-ear  Mertein  Luther  ! — Who  has  robbed  Christ 
of  His  wedded  spouses — many  of  whom  (though  perhaps  not  all) 
had  served  Him  diligently  day  and  night  for  so  many  years  in  a 
lovely,  spiritual  life — and  has  brought  them  down  to  a  miserable, 
pitiable  and  wicked  mode  of  life  ?  Shame  upon  you,  you  blas 
phemous,  sacrilegious  man,  you  public  bordeller  for  all  escaped 
monks  and  nuns,  apostate  priests  and  renegades  generally  ! — 
Who  has  filched,  robbed  and  stolen  from  his  Imperial  Roman 
Majesty,  our  beloved,  innocent,  Christian  Prince  Charles  V.,  and 
from  kings,  princes  and  lords,  the  honour,  respect,  service, 
obedience  and  the  plighted  oath  of  their  subjects  (not  of  all, 
thank  God)  by  false,  seditious  and  damnable  writings  and 
doctrines  ?  Why,  sure,  Dr.  Luther  !— Who  has  made  so  many 
thieves  and  scoundrels  as  are  now  to  be  found  in  every  corner, 
amongst  them  so  many  runaway  monks,  so  that  in  many  places, 
as  I  hear,  one  is  not  safe  from  them  either  in  the  streets  or  at 
home  ?  Why,  Dr.  Luther  !  That  nothing  might  be  left  undone, 
he  has  also  destroyed  the  religious  houses  of  nuns. — '  Summa 
summarum,'  there  would  be  so  rmich  to  tell,  that,  for  the  sake  of 
brevity,  it  must  stick  in  the  pen.  .  .  .  But  I  will  show  you  from 
Scripture  who  was  the  first,  the  second  and  the  third  sacrilegious 
robber.  The  first  was  Lucifer,  who,  out  of  pride,  tried  to  rob 

1  P.  130. 

DUKE  GEORGE   OF  SAXONY         193 

the  Almighty  of  His  glory,  power,  praise  and  service  (Is.  xiv.  12). 
He  received  his  reward.  The  second  was  Aman,  who  stole  from 
God  the  highest  honour,  viz.  worship,  for,  in  his  malice,  he  caused 
himself  to  be  worshipped  as  God.  He  wa&  hanged  on  a  gallows 
50  ells  high.  Judas  Scariothis  stole  from  Christ  and  His  Apostles 
the  tenth  penny  of  their  daily  living  ;  he  hanged  himself.  Luther, 
the  fourth  sacrilegious  robber,  has  surpassed  all  men  in  iniquity  ; 
what  his  end  and  reward  will  be  God  alone  knows."1 

It  has  been  said,  that,  among  the  defenders  of  Catholicism, 
no  voice  was  raised  which  could  compare  in  any  way  in 
emphasis  and  power  with  that  of  Luther.  Dollinger  in 
later  life  considered  that,  in  comparison  with  Luther,  his 
opponents  could  only  "  stammer  "  ;  what  they  advanced 
sounded  "  feeble,  weak  and  colourless."2  Yet,  what  we 
have  just  quoted  from  Duke  George  cannot  in  fairness  be 
charged  with  weakness.  Their  indignation  and  fiery  zeal 
inspired  other  Catholics  too  to  express  with  eloquence  and 
rudeness  their  conviction  of  the  evil  consequences  of  Luther's 

1  P.  144.         2  "  Wiedervereinigung  der  christl.  Kirchen,"  p.  53. 

IV. — O 



1.  Reports  from  various  Lutheran  Districts 

AFTER  Duke  George  of  Saxony  had  been  carried  off  by  death 
on  April  17,  1539,  a  sudden  revulsion  in  favour  of  Lutheran- 
ism  took  place  in  his  land.  Duke  Henry,  his  brother,  who 
succeeded  him,  introduced  the  new  teaching  to  which  he 
had  long  been  favourable.  Luther  came  at  once  to  Leipzig 
with  Melanchthon,  Jonas  and  Cruciger  to  render  at  least 
temporary  assistance,  by  preaching  and  private  counsel. 
In  July  of  that  same  year  an  Evangelical  Visitation  was 
already  arranged  by  Duke  Henry  on  the  lines  of  that  in 
the  Saxon  Electorate  ;  this  was  carried  out  by  Luther's 

Many  abuses  dating  from  Catholic  times  were  prevalent 
amongst  both  people  and  parochial  clergy.  Concubinage  in 
particular  had  increased  greatly  in  the  clerical  ranks  under 
the  influence  of  the  new  ideas.  Luther  himself  boasted  of 
having  advised  "  several  parish-priests  under  Duke  George 
to  marry  their  cook  secretly."1  But  much  greater  dis 
orders  than  had  previously  existed  crept  in  everywhere  at 
the  commencement  of  the  change. 

Luther  himself  was  soon  at  a  loss  to  discover  any  religious 
spirit  or  zeal  for  ecclesiastical  affairs,  either  in  the  ruler  or  in  his 
councillors.  The  Duke  seemed  to  him  "  old,  feeble  and  in 
capable."  He  complained,  on  March  3,  1540,  to  his  friend 
Anton  Lauterbach,  then  minister  at  Pirna  :  "  I  see  well  enough, 
that,  at  the  Dresden  Court  there  is  an  extraordinary  unwilling 
ness  to  advance  the  cause  of  God  or  man  ;  there  pride  and  greed 
of  gain  reign  supreme.  The  old  Prince  can't  do  anything,  the 
younger  Princes  dare  not,  and  would  not  even  had  they  the 
courage.  May  God  keep  the  guidance  of  His  Church  in  His  own 
Hands  until  He  finds  suitable  tools."2  On  the  moral  conditions 

1  Above,  p.  38,  and  vol.  iii.,  p.  262- 

2  Letters  ed.  De  Wette,  5,  p.  271. 



at  the  Ducal  Court  he  passes  a  startling  and  hasty  judgment 
when  he  says,  writing  to  his  Elector  in  1540,  that  there  the 
"  scandals  were  ten  times  worse  "  than  those  caused  by  the 
Hessian  bigamy.  He  was  annoyed  to  find  that,  even  after 
the  introduction  of  the  new  teaching,  the  courtiers  and  nobles 
thought  only  of  replenishing  their  purses.  He  speaks  of  them  as 
the  "  aristocratic  harpies  of  the  land,"  and  exclaims  :  "  These 
courtiers  will  end  by  eating  themselves  up  by  their  own  avarice."1 
They  refused  to  support  the  ministers  of  the  Word  and  disputed 
amongst  themselves  as  to  whose  duty  it  was  to  do  so  ;  they  did 
not  hide  their  old  contempt  for  Wittenberg,  i.e.  for  its  theologians 
and  theology,  and  yet  they  expected  Wittenberg  to  carry  out  the 
Visitations  free  of  cost.  "  Even  should  you  get  nothing  for  the 
Visitation,"  he  nevertheless  instructs  one  of  the  preachers,  "  still' 
you  must  hold  it  as  well  as  you  can,  comfort  souls  to  the  best  of 
your  power  and,  in  any  case,  expel  the  poisonous  Papists."2 

The  unexpected  and  apparently  so  favourable  change  in 
the  Duchy  really  did  little  to  dispel  his  gloom,  though  he 
occasionally  intones  a  hymn  of  gratitude  and  admiration 
for  the  working  of  Providence  displayed  in  the  change  of 

About  this  time  (1539),  in  Brandenburg,  the  Elector 
Joachim  II.  also  ushered  in  the  innovations.  The  rights  and 
possessions  of  the  ancient  Church  fell  a  prey  to  the  spoilers. 
Luther  praised  the  ruler  for  going  forward  so  bravely  "  to 
the  welfare  and  salvation  of  many  souls."  He  was,  how 
ever,  apprehensive  lest  the  "  roaring  of  the  lion  in  high 
places  "  might  influence  the  Elector ;  with  the  Divine 
assistance,  however,  he  would  not  fear  even  this.3  He 
showed  himself  strangely  lenient  in  regard  to  the  Elector's 
prudent  retention  of  much  more  of  the  Catholic  ceremonial 
than  had  been  preserved  in  any  other  German  land.  Even 
the  Elevation  of  the  Sacrament  at  Mass  (or  rather  at  the 
sham  Mass  still  in  use)  was  tolerated  by  Luther  ;  he  writes  : 
"  We  had  good  reasons  for  doing  away  with  the  elevation 
[of  the  Sacrament]  here  at  Wittenberg,  but  perhaps  at 
Berlin  you  have  not."4 

1  To    Johannes    Cellarius,    minister    at    Dresden,    Nov.    26,    1540, 
Letters  ed.  De  Wette,  5,  p.  229. 

2  Ibid.,  cp.  the  letter  to  Wenceslaus  Link  of  Oct.  26,  1539,  "  Brief- 
wechsel,"  12,  p.  270  :    "  Proceres  veteri  odio  despiciunt  Wittembergam.'" 

3  Letter  of  Dec.  4,  1539,  "  Brief wechsel,"  ibid.,  p.  313. 

4  To  Provost  George  Buchholzer  at  Berlin,  Dec.  4,  1539,  ibid.,  p.  316. 
At  the  Wittenberg  Schlosskirche  the  elevation  had  gone  before  1539, 
and  soon  after  was  discontinued  throughout  the  Saxon  Electorate. 
It  was  retained,  however,  in  the  parish   church  of  Wittenberg  until 

196          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

In  the  Duchy  of  Prussia,  formerly  ecclesiastical  property 
of  the  Teutonic  Knights,  the  way  had  been  paved  for  the 
apostasy  of  these  Knights,  all  bound  by  the  vow  of  chastity, 
by  Luther's  alluring  tract  "  An  die  Herrn  Deutschs  Ordens, 
das  sic  falsche  Keuscheyt  meyden  und  zur  rechten  ehlichen 
Keuschcyt  greyffen."1  Albert,  the  Grand  Master,  who  had 
visited  Luther  twice,  as  already  narrated,  seized  upon  the 
lands  of  the  Order  belonging  to  the  Church  and  caused 
himself  to  be  solemnly  invested  and  proclaimed  hereditary 
Duke  of  Prussia  on  April  10,  1525  ;  thereupon  Luther  sent 
him  his  congratulations  that  God  should  have  so  graciously 
called  him  to  this  new  Estate.  The  Grand  Master,  himself 
a  married  man,  with  the  assistance  of  the  two  apostate 
Bishops  of  Samland  and  Pomerania,  then  established 
Lutheranism.  As  chief  Bishop  he  assumed  the  position  of 
head  of  the  territorial  Church,  agreeably  with  the  Protestant 
practice  in  the  other  German  lands.  The  episcopal  juris 
diction  was  transferred  to  the  civil  Consistorial  Courts. 

Violent  appropriation  of  alien  property,  as  well  as  illegal 
assumption  of  ecclesiastical  jurisdiction,  also  characterised 
the  advent  of  the  new  "faith  in  Wiirtemberg.  Duke  Ulrich, 
who  had  been  raised  to  the  throne  in  1534  by  a  breach  of 
the  peace  of  the  Empire  and  contrary  to  all  law  and  justice, 
thanks  to  the  successful  raid  of  Philip  of  Hesse  (above,  p.  47  ; 
vol.  iii.,  p.  67  f.),  continued  to  labour  under  the  stigma 
attaching  to  the  manner  in  which  he  had  obtained  the 
Duchy,  in  spite  of  the  peace  he  had  patched  up  with  the 
Emperor.  The  religious  transformation  of  the  country  was 
however,  soon  accomplished,  thanks  to  his  pressure. 

The  chief  part  in  this,  so  far  as  Upper  Wiirtemberg  was 
concerned,  devolved  on  the  preacher,  Ambrosius  Blaurer 
(Blarer),  who  favoured  the  Zwinglian  leanings  of  Bucer. 

Blaurer  was  openly  accused  of  deception  and  hypocrisy  in  the 
matter  of  his  profession  of  faith.  Though  he  had  formerly  sided 
with  Zwingli  in  the  denial  of  the  Sacrament,  he  vindicated  his 
Lutheran  orthodoxy  to  his  patron,  the  Duke,  by  means  of  a 

Bugenhagen  did  away  with  it  on  June  25,  1542.  Luther  reserved  to 
himself  the  liberty  of  reintroducing  it  should  heresy  or  other  reasons 
call  for  it.  He  had  retained  the  elevation  at  Wittenberg  for  a  while 
as  a  protest  against  Carlstadt's  attacks  on  the  Sacrament,  at  least 
such  was  the  reason  he  gave  in  May,  1542,  to  Landgrave  Philip,  who 
wanted  its  abrogation.  Cp.  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  578. 

1  Dec.,  1523,  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  12,  p.  232  ff . ;  Erl.  ed.,  29, 
p/16  ff.  ("  Brief wechsel,"  4,  p.  266). 


formulary1  tallying  with  Luther's  doctrine  on  the  Supper. 
Subsequently,  however,  he  issued  an  "  Apology,"  in  which  he 
declared  he  had  not  in  the  least  altered  his  views.  "  Who  does 
not  see  the  deception  ?  "  wrote  Luther's  friend,  Veit  Dietrich ; 
"  formerly  he  made  a  profession  of  faith  in  our  own  words,  and 
now  he  attacks  everybody  who  says  he  has  retracted  his  previous 
opinion."2  Luther  had  been  a  prey  to  the  greatest  anxiety  on 
learning  that  Blaurer  had  become  the  Duke's  favourite.  "  If 
this  be  true,"  he  wrote,  "  what  hope  is  left  for  the  whole  of  Upper 
Germany  ?  "3  Much  as  he  had  rejoiced  at  Blaurer's  apparent 
retractation  in  the  matter  of  the  Sacrament,  he  was  very  mis 
trustful  of  his  bewildering  "  Apology."  "  I  only  hope  it  be  meant 
seriously,"  he  declared  ;  "  it  scandalises  many  that  Blaurer 
should  be  so  anxious  to  make  out  that  he  never  thought  differ 
ently.  People  find  this  hard  to  believe."  "  For  the  sake  of  unity 
I  shall,  however,  put  a  favourable  interpretation  on  everything. 
I  am  ready  to  forgive  anyone  who  in  his  heart  thinks  aright,  even 
though  he  may  have  been  in  error  or  hostile  to  me."4  Thus  he 
practically  pledged  himself  to  silence  regarding  the  work. 

Of  "  Blarer's  "  doings  in  Wiirtemberg,  now  won  over  to  the 
new  Evangel,  the  Bavarian  agent,  Hans  Werner,  a  violent 
opponent  of  Duke  Ulrich's,  wrote  :  "  He  preaches  every  day  ; 
yet  none  save  the  low  classes  and  common  people,  etc.,  attend 
his  sermons,  for  these  readily  accept  the  Evangel  of  mine  being 
thine  and  thine  mine.  Item,  Blarer  has  full  powers,  writes 
hither  and  thither  in  the  land,  turns  out  here  a  provost,  there  a 
canon,  vicar,  rector  or  priest  and  banishes  them  from  the  country 
by  order  of  Duke  Ulrich  ;  he  appoints  foreigners,  Zwinglians  or 
Lutheran  scamps,  of  whom  no  one  knows  anything  ;  all  must 
have  wife  and  child,  and  if  there  be  still  a  priest  found  in  the  land, 
he  is  forced  to  take  a  wife."5 

In  the  Wiirtemberg  lowlands,  north  of  Stuttgart,  a 
zealous  Lutheran,  Erhard  Schnepf,  laboured  for  the 
destruction  of  the  old  Church  system  ;  Duke  Ulrich  also 
summoned  Johann  Brenz,  the  Schwabisch-Hall  preacher,  to 
his  land  for  two  years. 

At  Christmas,  1535,  Ulrich  gave  orders  to  all  the  prelates 
in  his  realm  to  dismiss  the  Catholic  clergy  in  their  districts 
and  appoint  men  of  the  new  faith,  as  the  former  "  did 
nothing  but  blaspheme  and  abuse  the  Divine  truth."6  Even 

1  Cp.  Enders,  ibid.,  10,  p.  98,  n.  7. 

2  Letter  to  Coler,  April  30,  1535.     Enders,  ibid.,  p.  151,  n.  5. 

3  To  Justus  Jonas,  Dec.  17,  1534,  "  Brief wechsel,"  10,  p.  98. 

4  To  Erhard  Schnepf  at  Stuttgart,  May  15,  1535,  ibid.,  p.  150. 

5  Letter  to  the  Chancellor  Leonard  v.  Eck,  Jan.  21,  1535,  in  Wille, 
"  Anal,  zur  Gesch.  Oberdeutschlands,  1534-1540  "  ("  Zeitschr.  fur  die 
Gesch.  des  Oberrheins,"  37,  p.  263  ff.),  p.  293  f. 

6  G.  Bossert  in  "  Wiirttemberg.  KG.,"  ed.  Calwer  Verlagsverein, 
Calw,  1893,  p.  335. 

198         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

the  assisting  at  Mass  in  neighbouring  districts  was  pro 
hibited  by  the  regulation  issued  in  the  summer  of  1536, 
which  at  the  same  time  prescribed  the  attendance  of 
Catholics  at  least  once  every  Sunday  and  Holiday  at  the 
preaching  of  the  new  ministers  of  the  Word  ;  under  this 
intolerable  system  of  compulsion  Catholics  were  reduced  to 
performing  all  their  religious  exercises  in  their  own  homes.1 
The  violent  suppression  of  the  monasteries  and  the  sequestra 
tion  of  monastic  property  went  hand  in  hand  with  the  above. 
In  the  convents  of  women,  which  still  existed,  the  nuns 
were  forced  against  their  will  to  listen  to  the  sermons  of  the 
preachers.  Church  property  was  everywhere  confiscated 
so  far  as  the  ancient  Austrian  law  did  not  prevent  it.  The 
public  needs  and  the  scarcity  of  money  were  alleged  as  pretexts 
for  this  robbery.  The  Mass  vestments  and  church  vessels 
were  allotted  to  the  so-called  poor-boxes.  At  Stuttgart, 
for  instance,  the  costly  church  vestments  were  sold  for  the 
benefit  of  the  poor.  In  the  troubles  many  noble  works 
of  art  perished,  for  "  all  precious  metal  was  melted  down 
and  minted,  nor  were  cases  of  embezzlement  altogether 
unknown."  "  The  Prince,  with  the  approach  of  old  age, 
manifested  pitiable  miserliness  and  cupidity."2  Un 
fortunately  he  was  left  a  free  hand  in  the  use  of  the  great 
wealth  that  poured  into  his  coffers.  But,  not  even  in  the 
interests  of  the  new  worship,  would  he  expend  what  was 
necessary,  so  that  the  vicarages  fell  into  a  deplorable  state. 
In  other  matters,  too,  the  new  Church  of  the  country 
suffered  in  consequence  of  the  way  in  which  Church  property 
was  handled.  "  The  inevitable  consequence  was  the  rise  of 
many  quarrels,  complaints  were  heard  on  all  sides  and  even 
the  Schmalkalden  League  was  moved  to  remonstrate  with 

Terrible  details  concerning  the  alienation  of  church  and 
monastic  property  are  reported  from  Wiirtemberg  by  con 
temporaries.  The  preacher  Erhard  Schnepf,  the  Duke's  chief 
tool,  was  also  his  right  hand  in  the  seizure  of  property.  Loud 
complaints  concerning  Schnepf's  doings,  and  demands  that  he 
should  be  made  to  render  an  account,  were  raised  even  by  such 
Protestants  as  Bucer  and  Myconius,  and  by  the  speakers  at  the 
religious  conference  at  Worms.  He  found  means,  however,  to 
evade  this  duty.  One  of  those  voices  of  the  past  bewails  the 
treatment  meted  out  to  the  unfortunate  religious  :  "  Even  were 

1  Cp.  ibid.,  p.  336.          2  Ibid.,  p.  347.          3  Ibid.,  p.  348. 


the  Wiirtemberg  monks  and  nuns  all  devils  incarnate  and  no 
men,  still  Duke  Ulrich  ought  not  to  proceed  against  them  in  so 
un-Christian,  inhuman  and  tyrannical  a  fashion."1 

The  relentless  work  of  religious  subversion  bore  every 
where  a  political  stamp.  The  leaders  were  simply  tools  of 
the  Court.  Frequently  they  were  at  variance  amongst 
themselves  in  matters  of  theology,  and  their  people,  too, 
were  dragged  into  the  controversy.  To  the  magistrates  it 
was  left  to  decide  such  differences  unless  indeed  some 
dictatorial  official  forestalled  them,  as  was  the  case  when 
the  Vogt  of  Herrenberg  took  it  into  his  own  hands  to  settle 
a  matter  of  faith.  In  the  struggles  between  Lutherans  and 
Zwinglians,  the  highest  court  of  appeal  above  the  town- 
Councillors  and  the  officials  was  the  Ducal  Chancery. 

Ulrich  himself  did  not  explicitly  side  either  with  the 
Confession  of  Augsburg  or  with  the  "  Confessio  Tetra- 
politana"  viz.  with  the  more  Zwinglian  form  of  faith  agreed 
upon  at  the  Diet  of  Augsburg  by  the  four  South-German 
townships  of  Strasburg,  Constance,  Memmingen  and  Lindau. 

The  preachers  who  assembled  in  1537  at  the  so-called  Idols- 
meeting  of  Urach,  to  discuss  the  question  of  the  veneration  of 
images  which-  had  given  rise  to  serious  dissensions  amongst  them, 
appealed  to  Ulrich.  Blaurer  inveighed  against  the  \ise  of  images 
as  idolatrous.  Brenz  declared  that  their  removal  in  Wiirtem 
berg  would  be  tantamount  to  a  condemnation  of  the  Lutheran 
Church  in  Saxony  and  elsewhere  where  they  were  permitted. 
The  Court,  to  which  the  majority  of  the  theologians  appealed, 
ordered  the  removal  of  all  images  on  Jan.  20,  1540.  Distressing 
scenes  were  witnessed  in  many  places  when  the  images  and 
pictures  in  the  churches,  which  were  not  only  prized  by  the 
people,  but  were  also,  many  of  them,  of  great  artistic  value,2  were 
broken  and  torn  to  pieces  in  spite  of  the  warning  issued  by  the 
authorities  against  their  violent  destruction.  The  "  Tetra- 
polilana  "  had  already  forcibly  denounced  the  use  of  images. 

At  Ulm,  which  so  far  had  refused  to  accept  the  "  Tetrapolitana," 
the  magistrates  in  1544  decided  to  adhere  to  the  Confession  of 
Augsburg  and  the  "  Apologia."  Blaurer,  some  years  before 
(1541),  had  justifiably  complained  of  the  arbitrary  action  of  the 
civic  authorities  and  said  that  every  town  acted  according  to  its 
own  ideas.  But  the  preachers  were  frequently  so  exorbitant  in 
the  material  demands  they  made  on  behalf  of  themselves  and 
their  families  that  the  Town  Council  of  Ulm  declared,  they 
behaved  as  though  "  each  one  had  the  right  to  receive  a  full 
saucepan  every  day."3 

1  Hans  Werner  to  Chancellor  Eck,  Jan.  14,  1536,  Wille,  ibid.,  p.  298. 

2  Bossert,  ibid.,  remarks,  p.  333  :    "  Many  mediaeval  works  of  art 
were  preserved."  3  Ibid.,  p.  356. 

200         LUTHER  THE   REFORMER 

In  place  of  any  amendment  of  the  many  moral  disorders 
already  prevailing,  still  greater  moral  corruption  became  the 
rule  among  the  people  of  Wiirtemberg,  as  is  attested  by  Myconius 
the  Zwinglian  in  1539,  and  thirty  years  later  by  the  Chancellor 
of  the  University  of  Tubingen,  Jacob  Andrese. 

The  former  declared  that  the  "  people  are  full  of  impudence 
and  godlessness  ;  of  blasphemy,  drunkenness,  sins  of  the  flesh 
and  wild  licentiousness  there  is  no  end"1  Andrese  directly  con 
nects  with  the  new  faith  this  growing  demoralisation  :  "A 
dissolute,  Epicurean,  bestial  life,  feeding,  swilling,  avarice,  pride 
and  blasphemy."  "  We  have  learnt,"  so  the  people  said,  accord 
ing  to  him,  "  that  only  through  faith  in  Jesus  Christ  are  we 
saved,  Who  by  His  death  has  atoned  for  all  our  sins  ;  .  .  .  that 
all  the  world  may  see  they  are  not  Papists  and  rely  not  at  all  on 
good  works,  they  perform  none.  Instead  of  fasting  they  gorge 
and  swill  day  and  night,  instead  of  giving  alms,  they  flay  the 
poor."  "  Everyone  admits  this  cannot  go  on  longer,  for  things 
have  come  to  a  crisis.  Amongst  the  people  there  is  little  fear 
of  God  and  little  or  no  veracity  or  faith  ;  all  forms  of  injustice 
have  increased  and  we  have  reached  the  limit."2 

A  General  Rescript  had  to  be  issued  on  May  22,  1542,  for  the 
whole  of  Wiirtemberg,  to  check  "the  drunkenness,  blasphemy, 
swearing,  gluttony,  coarseness  and  quarrelsomeness  rampant  in 
the  parishes."3 

Few  bright  spots  are  to  be  seen  in  the  accounts  of  the 
early  days  of  the  Reformation  in  Wiirtemberg,  if  we  except 
the  lives  of  one  or  two  blameless  ministers.  It  is  no  fault  of 
the  historian's  that  there  is  nothing  better  to  chronicle. 
Even  the  Protestant  historians  of  Wiirtemberg,  albeit  pre 
disposed  to  paint  the  change  of  religion  in  bright  colours, 
have  to  admit  this.  They  seek  to  explain  the  facts  on  the 
score  that  the  period  was  one  of  restless  and  seething  tran 
sition,  and  to  throw  the  blame  on  earlier  times  and  on  the 
questionable  elements  among  the  Catholic  clergy  from 
whose  ranks  most  of  the  preachers  were  recruited.4  But 
though  grave  responsibility  may  rest  on  earlier  times,  not 
only  here  but  in  the  other  districts  which  fell  away  from  the 
Church,  and  though  those  of  the  clergy  who  forgot  their 
duty  and  the  honour  of  their  calling  may  have  contributed 
even  more  than  usual  to  damage  the  fair  reputation  of 

1  In  Heyd,  "  Ulrich  Herzog  von  Wiirtenberg,"  3,  p.  89. 

2  The  passages  are  given  in  greater  detail  in  "  Erinnerung  nach  dem 
Lauf  der  Planeten  gestellt,"  Tubingen,  1568,  and  "  Dreizehn  Predigten 
vom  Tiirken,"  Tubingen,   1569,  in  Dollinger,   "  Die  Reformation,"  2, 
pp.  376-378.  3  Bossert,  ibid.,  p.  357. 

4  Thus,  e.g.  Bossert,  loc.  cit.,  and  in  other  studies  on  Wiirtemberg 
Church-History  in  the  16th  century,  called  forth  by  Janssen's  work. 


Protestantism,  yet  the  increase  of  immorality  which  has 
been  proved  to  have  endured  for  a  long  course  of  years, 
brings  the  historian  face  to  face  with  a  question  not  lightly 
to  be  dismissed  :  Why  did  the  preaching  of  the  new  Evangel, 
with  its  supposedly  higher  standard  of  religion  and  morality, 
especially  at  the  springtide  of  its  existence  and  in  its  full 
vigour,  not  bring  about  an  improvement,  but  rather  the 
reverse  ? 

This  question  applies,  however,  equally  to  other  countries 
which  were  then  torn  from  the  Church,  and  to  the  persons 
principally  instrumental  in  the  work. 

In  Hesse  the  religious  upheaval,  as  even  Protestant 
contemporaries  conceded,  also  promoted  a  great  decline  of 

The  bad  example  given  by  Landgrave  Philip  tended  to 
increase  the  evil.1  A  harmful  influence  was  exercised  not 
only  by  the  Landgrave's  Court  but  also  by  certain  preachers, 
such  as  Johann  Lening,2  who  enjoyed  Philip's  favour. 
Elisabeth,  Duchess  of  Rochlitz,  the  Landgrave's  sister,  and 
a  zealous  patron  of  the  Evangel,  like  the  Prince  himself, 
cherished  rather  lax  views  on  morality.  At  first  she  was 
indignant  at  the  bigamy,  though  not  on  purely  moral 
grounds.  The  sovereign  met  her  anger  with  a  threat  of 
telling  the  world  what  she  herself  had  done  during  her 
widowhood.  The  result  was  that  the  Duchess  said  no  more.3 
The  Landgrave's  Court-preacher,  Dionysius  Melander,  who 
performed  the  marriage  ceremony  with  the  second  wife,  had, 
five  years  before,  laid  down  his  office  as  preacher  and  leader 
of  the  innovations  at  Frankfort  on  the  Maine,  "  having  fallen 
out  with  his  fellows  and  personally  compromised  himself 
by  carrying  on  with  his  housekeeper."  He  was  a  "  violent, 
despotic  and,  at  times,  coarse  and  obscene,  popular  orator 
whose  personal  record  was  not  unblemished."4 

A  Hessian  church  ordinance  of  1539  complains  of  the  moral 
retrogression  :  Satan  has  estranged  men  from  the  communion 
of  Christ  "  not  only  by  means  of  factions  and  sects,  but  also  by 
carnal  wantonness  and  dissolute  living."5  The  old  Hessian 

1  Cp.  above,  passim.  2  See  above,  p.  65. 

"  Brief wechsel  Philipps  von  Hessen,"  1,  p.  334  f. 
4  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  31'5  f.     On  his  marriage,  see  above,  p.  157. 
6  A.  L.  Richter,    "Die   evangel.   Kirchenordnungen    des    16.  Jahr- 
hunderts,"  1,  p.  290. 

202         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

historian  Wigand  Lauze  writes,  in  his  "  Life  and  deeds  of  Philip 
the  Magnanimous,  Landgrave  of  Hesse,"  that,  the  people  have 
become  very  savage  and  uncouth,  "  as  though  God  had  given  us 
His  precious  Word,  and  thereby  delivered  us  from  the  innumer 
able  abominations  of  Popery  and  its  palpable  idolatry,  simply 
that  each  one  might  be  free  to  do  or  leave  undone  whatever  he 
pleased  "  ;  "  many  evil  deeds  were  beginning  to  be  looked  upon 
by  many  as  no  longer  sinful  or  vicious."  He  accuses  "  the 
magistrates,  ministers  and  governors  "  of  corrupting  the  people 
by  themselves  transgressing  the  "  good,  Christian  regulations  " 
which  had  been  set  up,  and  charges  both  preachers  and  hearers 
with  serving  Mammon,  and  with  "  barefaced  extortion,"  "  not 
to  mention  other  sins  and  vices."1 

The  Hessian  theologians  and  preachers  transferred  the  re 
sponsibility  for  the  abolition  of  "  law  and  order,"  for  the  increase  of 
the  "freedom  of  the  flesh  within  the  Evangel  "  and  for  the  falling 
away  into  a  "  state  like  that  of  Sodom  and  Gomorrha  "  to  the 
shoulders  of  the  "  magistrates  and  officials."2  The  latter,  on  the 
other  hand,  boldly  asserted  that  the  preachers  themselves  were 
the  cause  of  the  evil,  since  they  led  a  "  wicked,  scandalous  life, 
drinking,  gambling,  practising  usury  and  so  forth,  and  were, 
some  of  them,  guilty  of  still  worse  things,  brawling,  fighting  and 
wrangling  with  the  people  in  the  taverns  and  behaving  improperly 
with  the  women."3  Bucer  himself,  Philip's  adviser  in  ecclesi 
astical  matters,  wrote  sadly  to  the  Landgrave,  in  1539,  from 
Marburg  :  "  The  people  are  becoming  demoralised  and  immorality 
is  gaining  the  upper  hand."  "  Where  such  contempt  prevails  for 
God  and  the  authorities  there  the  devil  is  omnipotent."4 

2.  At  the  Centre  of  the  New  Faith 

If  we  glance  at  the  Saxon  Electorate  we  shall  find  the 
deep  despondency  frequently  displayed  by  Luther  con 
cerning  the  deplorable  moral  decadence  prevailing  there 
only  too  well  justified. 

The  downward  trend  appeared  to  have  set  in  in  earnest 
and  all  hope  of  remedying  affairs  seemed  lost.5 

The  Court  and  those  in  authority  not  only  did  little  to  check 
the  evil  but,  by  their  example,  even  tended  to  promote  many 
disorders.  The  Elector,  Johann  Frederick  "the  Magnanimous' ' 
(1532-1547),  was  addicted  to  drink.  The  banquets  which  he 

1  "  Leben,"  etc.  ("  Zeitschr.  des  Vereins  fur  hess.  Gesch.,"  Snppl.  2, 
Bd.  1  und  2),  1,  p.  379  ff. 

2  Neudecker,    "  Urkunden   aus  der  Reformationszeit,"    p.    684   ff. 
Janssen,  "  Hist,  of  the  German  People  "  (Eng.  Trans.),  6,  pp.  88-91. 

3  Hassencamp,    "  Hess.    KG.    im    Zeitalter   der   Reformation,"    2, 
p.  613  f.    Janssen,  ibid. 

4  "  Briefwechsel  Philipps,"  1,  p.  121  f.     Janssen,  ibid. 

5  Cp.  above,  passim,  and  vol.  iii.,  p.  324  ;  vol.  ii.,  pp.  123  ff.,  218  ff. 
344,  349  f. 

THE   SAXON   ELECTORATE          203 

gave  to  his  friends — in  which  wine  was  indulged  in  to  an 
extent  unusual  even  in  those  days  when  men  were  ac 
customed  to  heavy  drinking — became  a  byword.  Luther 
himself  came  to  speak  strongly  on  his  excessive  drinking. 
"  His  only  faults,"  he  laments  in  the  Table-Talk,  "  are  his 
drinking  and  routing  too  much  with  his  companions."1 
"  He  has  all  the  virtues— but  just  fancy  him  swilling  like 
that  !  "2  Yet  Luther  has  an  excuse  ready  :  "  He  is  a  stout 
man  and  can  stand  a  deep  draught ;  what  he  must  needs 
drink  would  make  another  man  dead  drunk."3  "  Un 
fortunately  not  only  our  Court  here  but  the  whole  of  - 
Germany  is  plagued  with  this  vice  of  drunkenness.  It  is  a 
bad  old  custom  in  the  German  lands  which  has  gone  on 
growing  and  will  continue  to  grow.  Henry,  Duke  of  [Bruns 
wick]  Wolfenbuttel  calls  our  Elector  a  drunkard  and  very 
Nabal  with  whom  Abigail  could  not  speak  until  he  had  slept 
off  his  carouse."4  We  have  the  Elector's  own  comment  on 
this  in  a  letter  to  Chancellor  Briick  :  "If  the  Brunswick 
fellow  writes  that  we  are  a  drunken  Nabal  and  Benadad,  we 
cannot  entirely  deny  that  we  sometimes  follow  the  German 
custom  "  ;  at  any  rate  the  Bruns wicker  was  not  the  man  to 
find  fault,  for  he  was  an  even  harder  drinker.5 

Johann  Frederick  was  accused  by  Philip  of  Hesse  of  the 
grossest  immorality.  This  happened  when  the  former  refused 
to  defend  Philip's  bigamy  and  when  his  Superintendent,  Justus 
Menius,  who  was  given  to  lauding  the  Elector's  virtues,  showed 
an  inclination  to  protest  publicly  against  the  Landgrave's  bigamy. 
This  led  Philip  to  write  this  warning  to  his  theologian  Bucer  : 
"  If  those  saintly  folk,  Justus  Menius  and  his  crew,  amuse  them 
selves  by  writing  against  us,  they  shall  have  their  answer.  And 
we  shall  not  leave  hidden  under  a  bushel  how  this  most  august 
and  quite  sinless  Elector,  once,  under  our  roof  at  Cassel,  and 
again,  at  the  time  of  the  first  Diet  of  Spires,  committed  the  crime 
of  sodomy."6 

A.  Hausrath  remarks  concerning  this  in  his  "  Luthers  Leben  "  : 
That  Philip  was  lying  "  can  hardly  be  taken  for  granted  "  ;7  G. 

1  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden  "  (Kroker),  p.   173.          2  Ibid.,  p.   100. 

3  Ibid.,  p.  373.  *  Hausrath,  2,  p.  391. 

6  Letter  of  Feb.  9,  1541.  See  G.  Mentz,  "  Johann  Friedrich  der 
Grossmiitige,"  3,  Jena,  1908,  p.  344,  according  to  certain  "  archives."  — 
Steinhausen  ("  Kulturgesch.  der  Deutschen,"  p.  508),  calls  the  Elector 
Johann  Frederick  quite  pimply  a  "  drunkard."  He  points  out  that 
Anna  of  Saxony  died  of  drink  and  that  the  Saxons,  even  in  the  15th 
century,  were  noted  for  their  drinking  habits. 

6  Letter  of  Jan.  3,  1541,  "  Briefwechsel  Philipps,"  ed.  Lenz,  1,  p.  302. 

7  Ci  Luthers. Leben,"  2,  Berlin,  1904,  p.  391. 

204         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

Mentz,  likewise,  in  his  recent  work,  "  Job.  Friedrich  der  Gross- 
rnutige,"1  says  :  "  It  is  difficult  simply  to  ignore  the  Landgrave's 
statement,  but  we  do  not  know  whether  the  allusion  may  not  be 
to  some  sin  committed  in  youth."  Here  belongs  also  the  passage 
in  Philip  of  Hesse's  letter  to  Luther  of  July  27,  1540  (above, 
p.  60),  where  he  calls  the  Elector  to  bear  witness  that  he  (the 
Landgrave)  had  done  "  the  worst."  The  Biblical  expression 
"  peccatum  pessimum  "  stood  for  sodomy.  Further  charges  of  a 
similar  nature  were  even  more  explicitly  laid  at  the  door  of  Johann 
Frederick.  A  Catholic,  relating  the  proceedings  in  Brunswick 
at  the  close  of  the  conquest  of  that  country  by  the  Protestant 
troops  in  1542,  speaks  of  "  vices  and  outrages  against  nature 
then  indulged  in  by  the  Elector  at  the  Castle  as  is  commonly 
reported  and  concerning  which  there  is  much  talk  among  the 
Court  people."2  Duke  Henry  of  Brunswick  in  a  tract  of  1544 
referred  not  only  to  the  Elector's  sanction  of  the  Landgrave's 
bigamy,  in  return  for  which  he  was  spared  by  the  latter,  but  also 
to  the  "  many  other  pranks  which  might  be  circumstantially 
proved  against  them  and  which  deserved  more  severe  punish 
ment  "  than  that  of  the  sword. 3  The  "  more  severe  punishment  " 
means  burning  at  the  stake,  which  was  the  penalty  decreed  by 
the  laws  of  the  Empire  for  sodomy,  whereas  polygamy  and 
adultery  were  simply  punished  by  decapitation.  Both  sovereigns 
in  their  reply  flatly  denied  the  charge,  but,  evidently,  they  clearly 
understood  its  nature  ;  they  had  never  been  guilty,  they  said, 
of  "  shameful,  dishonourable  pranks  deserving  of  death  by  fire."4 

Whatever  the  truth  may  be  concerning  this  particular 
charge  which  involves  them  both,5  both  Landgrave  and 
Elector  certainly  left  behind  them  so  bad  a  record  that 
Adolf  Hausrath  could  say  :  The  pair  (but  the  Landgrave 
even  more  than  the  Elector)  did  their  best  "  to  make 
mockery  of  the  claim  of  the  Evangelicals  that  their  Evangel 
would  revive  the  morality  of  the  German  nation."  He 
instances  in  particular  the  bigamy,  "  which  put  any  belief 
in  the  reality  of  their  piety  to  a  severe  test  and  prepared 
the  way  for  a  great  moral  defeat  of  Luther's  cause."6 

In  the  matter  of  the  bigamy  attempts  were  made  to 
exculpate  the  Elector  Johann  Frederick  by  alleging,  that 

1  3  Teil,  Jena,  1909,  p.  343  f. 

2  Janssen,  "  Hist,  of  the  German  People  "  (Eng.  Trans.),  6,  p.  213. 

3  Hortleder,   "  Von  den  Ursachen  des  Teutschen  Kriegs  Karls  V. 
wider  die  Schmalkaldische,"  1,  Gotha,  1645,  p.  1837. 

4  Ibid.,  p.  1869  f. 

5  N.  Paulus,  who  examined  the  matter  more  closely  in  the  "  Hist. 
Jahrb.,"  30,  1909,  p.   154,  comes  to  the  conclusion  that  Mentz  in  his 
Life  of  Johann  Frederick  has  not  laid  sufficient  weight  on  the  testimony 
of  the  witnesses. 

6  "  Luthers  Leben,"  2,  p.  391  f. 

THE   SAXON   ELECTORATE          205 

he  regarded  the  Landgrave's  step  not  as  a  real  new  marriage 
but  as  mere  concubinage.  The  fact  is,  however,  he  was 
sufficiently  well  informed  by  Bucer  in  Dec.  1539,  i.e.  from 
the  very  beginning,  learnt  further  details  two  months 
later  from  the  Landgrave's  own  lips,  and  declared  himself 
"  satisfied  with  everything."  When,  later,  the  Elector 
began  to  take  an  unfavourable  view  of  the  business,  Philip 
wrote  to  Bucer  (July  24,  1540),  pointing  out  that  he  had 
nevertheless  sent  his  representative  to  the  wedding.  It  is, 
however,  true  that  the  Elector  had  all  along  been  against 
any  making  public  of  so  compromising  an  affair  and  had 
backed  up  his  theologians  when  they  urged  the  Landgrave 
to  deny  it.1 

There  is  no  more  ground  for  crediting^  Johann  Frederick 
with  "  strictness  of  morals  "  than  for  saying  that  the  Elector 
Frederick  the  Wise  (1486-1525),  under  whose  reign 
Lutheranism  took  root  in  the  land,  was  upright  and  truth 
ful  in  his  dealings  with  the  Pope  and  the  Empire. 

The  diplomatic  artifices  by  which  the  latter  protected 
Luther  whilst  pretending  not  to  do  so,  the  dissembling  and 
double-dealing  of  his  policy  throws  a  slur  on  the  memory  of 
one  who  was  a  powerful  patron  of  Lutheranism.  Even  in 
Kostlin-Kawerau2  we  find  his  behaviour  characterised  as 
"  one  long  subterfuge,  seeing,  that,  whilst  giving  Luther  a 
free  hand,  he  persisted  in  making  out  that  Luther's  cause 
was  not  his  "  ;  his  declaration,  that  "  it  did  not  become  him 
as  a  layman  to  decide  in  such  a  controversy,"  is  rightly 
branded  as  misleading. 

The  Protestant  Pietists  were  loudest  in  their  complaints. 
In  his  "  Kirchenhistorie,"  Gottfried  Arnold,  who  was  one  of 
them,  blamed,  in  1699,  this  Elector  for  the  "  cunning  and 
the  political  intrigues  "  of  which  he  was  suspected  ;  he  is 
angry  that  this  so  undevout  promoter  of  Lutheranism 
should  have  written  to  Duke  George,  his  cousin,  "  that  he 
never  undertook  nor  ever  would  undertake  to  defend 
Luther's  sermons  or  his  controversial  writings,"  and  that  he 
should  have  sent  to  his  minister  at  Rome  the  following 
instructions,  simply  to  pacify  the  Pope  :  "It  did  not 
become  him  as  a  secular  Prince  to  judge  of  these  matters, 
and  he  left  Luther  to  answer  for  everything  at  his  own 

1  Cp.  above,  passim. 

2  Vol.  i.,  p.  601. 


risk."1  The  same  historian  also  points  out  with  dissatisfac 
tion  that  the  Elector  Frederick,  "  though  always  unmarried, 
had,  by  a  certain  female,  two  sons  called  Frederick  and 
Sebastian.  How  he  explained  this  to  his  spiritual  directors 
is  nowhere  recorded."2  The  "  female  "  in  question  was 
Anna  Weller,  by  whom  he  had,  besides  these  two  sons,  also 
a  daughter.3 

Against  his  brother  and  successor,  Johann,  surnamed  the 
Constant  (1525-1532),  Luther's  friends  brought  forward  no 
such  complaints,  but  merely  reproached  him  with  letting 
things  take  their  course.  Arnold  instances  a  statement  of 
Melanchthon's  according  to  which  this  good  Lutheran 
Prince  "  had  been  very,  negligent  in  examining  this  thing 
and  that,"  so  that  grave  disorders  now  called  for  a  remedy. 
Luther,  too,  whilst  praising  the  Elector's  good  qualities, 
declares,  that  "  he  was  far  too  indulgent."4  "  I  inter 
fere  with  no  one,"  was  his  favourite  saying,  "  but  merely 
trust  more  in  God's  Word  than  in  man."  The  protests 
of  the  Emperor  and  the  representations  of  the  Catholics, 
politics  and  threats  of  war  left  him  quite  unmoved,  whence 
his  title  of  "  the  Constant  "  ;  "he  was  just  the  right  man 
for  Luther,"  says  Hausrath, 5  "  for  the  latter  did  not  like  to 
see  the  gentlemen  of  the  Saxon  Chancery,  Briick,  Beyer, 
Planitz  and  the  rest,  interfering  and  urging  considerations 
of  European  politics.  '  Our  dear  old  father,  the  Elector,' 
Luther  said  of  him  in  1530,  '  has  broad  shoulders,  and  must 
now  bear  everything.'  ' 

The  favour  of  these  Princes  caused  Luther  frequently  to 
overstep  the  bounds  of  courtesy  in  his  behaviour  towards 
them.  Julius  Boehmer,  who  is  sorry  for  this,  in  the  Intro 
duction  to  his  selection  of  Luther's  works  remarks,  that  he 
was  guilty  of  "  want  of  respect,  nay,  of  rudeness,  towards 
the  Elector  Frederick  and  his  successor  Johann."6  Of 
Luther's  relations  with  Johann  Frederick,  Hausrath  says  : 
"  It  is  by  no  means  certain  that  the  Duke's  [Henry  of 
Brunswick's]  opinion  [viz.  that  Luther  used  to  speak  of  his 
own  Elector  as  Hans  Wurst  (i.e.  Jack  Pudding)]  was  with 
out  foundation  ;  in  any  case,  it  was  not  far  from  the  mark. 
With  his  eternal  plans  and  his  narrow-minded  obstinacy, 

1  Frankfurt,  1699,  2,  p.  44.  2  Ibid. 

3  "  Allg.  deutsche  Biographie,"  7,  p.  781  (Flathe). 

4  Hausrath,  loc.  cit.,  2,  p.  67.  5  Ibid.,  p.  68. 

6  "  Martin  Luthers  Werke  fur  das  deutsche  Volk,"  1907,  p.  xiii. 


Luther's  corpulent  master  was  a  thorn  in  the  side  of  the 
aged  Reformer.  .  .  .  '  He  works  like  a  donkey,'  Luther  once 
said  of  him,  and,  unfortunately,  this  was  perfectly  true."1 

In  his  will,  dated  1537,  Luther  addressed  the  following 
words  of  consolation  to  the  princely  patrons  and  promoters 
of  his  work,  the  Landgrave  and  the  Elector  Johann 
Frederick  :  It  was  true  they  were  not  quite  stainless,  but 
the  Papists  were  even  worse  ;  they  had  indeed  trespassed 
on  the  rights  and  possessions  of  others,  but  this  was  of  no 
great  consequence  ;  they  must  continue  to  work  for  the 
Evangel,  though  in  what  way  he  would  not  presume  to 
dictate  to  them.2 — Melanchthon,  who  was  so  often  distressed 
at  the  way  the  Princes  behaved  on  the  pretext  of  defending 
the  Evangel,  complains  that  "  the  sophistry  and  wickedness 
of  our  Princes  are  bringing  the  Empire  to  ruin,"  in  which 
"  bitter  cry,"  writes  a  Protestant  historian,  "  he  sums  up 
the  result  of  his  own  unhappy  experiences."3 

From  the  accounts  of  the  Visitations  in  the  Electorate  we 
learn  more  details  of  the  condition  of  morality,  law  and 
order  in  this  the  focus  of  the  new  Evangel.  The  proximity 
and  influence  of  Luther  and  of  his  best  and  most  faithful 
preachers  did  not  constitute  any  bulwark  against  the  grow 
ing  corruption  of  morals,  which  clear-sighted  men  indeed 
attributed  mainly  to  the  new  doctrines  on  good  works,  on 
faith  alone  and  on  Evangelical  freedom. 

In  the  protocols  of  the  first  Visitation  (1527-1529)  we  read  : 
The  greater  number  of  those  entrusted  with  a  cure  of  souls,  are 
"  in  an  evil  case"  ;  reckless  marriages  are  frequent  amongst  the 

1  Hausrath,  ibid.,  2,  p.  390. 

2  "  Brief wechsel,"  11,  p.  209,  from  the  original  at  Weimar,  written 
by  Bugenhagen  :     "  Utcunque  sint  in  quibusdam  peccatores  et  non  in 
omnibus  puri,  calumniantibus  hoc  etiam  vel  forte  accusantibus  adversariis, 
tamen  confidant  de  Domini  bonitate"  etc.    And  before  this,  concerning 
the  "  adversariorum  clamores  '  Rapiunt  bona  ecclesiastical  "  etc.,  they 
were  to  comfort  themselves,    "  quia  non  sic  rapiunt,   quemadmodum 
quidam  alii  ;    video  enim  eos  per  hcec  bona  curare  quce  sunt  religionis. 
Si  quid  prceterea  ipsis  ex  talibus  bonis  accedit,  quis  potius  ea  susciperet  ? 
Principum    sunt    talia,    non    nebulonum    papistarum."      The    general 
spoliation  of  church  property  disturbed  his  mind,  as  we  can  see,  but  he 
overcomes  his  scruples,  and  persuades  himself  that  their  action,  like 
his  own,  was  really  directed  against  Antichrist  :    "  lube  meis  verbis,  ut 
faciant  in  Deo  confidenter  pro  causa  evangelii  quicquid  Spiritus  sanctus 
suggesserit  ;  non  prcescribo  eis  modum.    Misericors  Deus  confortet  eos,  ut 
maneant  in  ista  sana  doctrina  et  gratias  agant,   quod  sunt  liberati  ab 

3  Ellinger,  "  Melanchthon,"  p.  588. 

208          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

preachers  ;  complaints  were  lodged  with  the  Electoral  Visitors 
concerning  the  preacher  at  Lucka  who  "  had  three  wives  living."1 
At  a  later  Visitation  a  preacher  was  discovered  to  have  had  six 
children  by  two  sisters.  Many  of  the  preachers  had  wives  whom 
they  had  stolen  from  husbands  still  living.  The  account  of  the 
people  whether  in  town  or  country  was  not  much  more  reassur 
ing  ;  many  localities  had  earned  themselves  a  bad  repute  for 
blasphemy  and  general  adultery.  In  many  places  the  people 
were  declared  to  be  so  wicked  that  only  "  the  hangman  and  the 
jailer  would  bo  of  any  avail."  Besides  this,  the  parsonages  were 
in  a  wretched  state.  "  The  foundations  had  fallen  in,  or,  in  many 
instances,  had  been  seized  by  the  nobles,  the  lands  and  meadows 
belonging  to  the  parsonages  had  been  sold  by  the  parish-councils, 
and  the  money  from  the  sale  of  chalices  and  monstrances  spent 
on  drink.  The  educational  system  was  so  completely  ruined  that 
in  the  Wittenberg  district,  for  instance,  in  which  there  were  145 
town  and  country  livings  with  hundreds  of  chapels  of  ease,  only 
21  schools  remained. 

As  early  as  1527  Melanchthon  had  viewed  with  profound 
dismay  the  "  serious  ruin  and  decay  that  menaces  everything 
good,"  which,  he  says,  was  clearly  perceived  at  Wittenberg. 
"  You  see,"  he  writes,  "  how  greatly  men  hate  one  another,  how 
great  is  the  contempt  for  all  uprightness,  how  great  the  ignorance 
of  those  who  stand  at  the  head  of  the  churches,  and  above  all  how 
forgetful  the  rulers  are  of  God."  And  again,  in  1528  :  "  No  one 
hates  the  Evangel  more  bitterly  than  those  who  like  to  be  con 
sidered  ours."  "  We  see,"  he  laments  in  the  same  year,  "  how 
greatly  the  people  hate  us."2 

His  friend  Justus  Jonas,  who  was  acquainted  with  the  con 
ditions  in  the  Saxon  Electorate  from  long  personal  experience, 
wrote  in  1530  :  "  Those  who  call  themselves  Evangelical  are 
becoming  utterly  depraved,  and  not  only  is  there  no  longer  any 
fear  of  God  among  them  but  there  is  no  respect  for  outward 
appearances  either  ;  they  are  weary  of  and  disgusted  with 
sermons,  they  despise  their  pastors  and  preachers  and  treat  them 
like  the  dirt  and  dust  of  the  streets."  "  And,  besides  all  this,  the 
common  people  are  becoming  utterly  shameless,  insolent  and 
ruffianly,  as  if  the  Evangel  had  only  been  sent  to  give  lewd 
fellows  liberty  and  scope  for  the  practice  of  all  their  vices."3 

The  next  Visitation,  held  seven  years  later,  only  confirmed 
the  growth  of  the  evil.  In  the  Wittenberg  district  in  particular 
complaints  were  raised  concerning  "  the  increase  in  godless 

1  This  ex-priest,  Michael  Kramer,  first  took  a  wife  at  Cunitz,  and 
when  she  began  to  lead  a  bad  life,  married  a  second  at  Dommitzsch 
"  on  the  strength  of  an  advice  secured."  On  account  of  matrimonial 
squabbles  he  married  a  third  time,  after  obtaining  advice  from  Luther 
through  the  magistrates.  C.  A.  Burkhardt,  "  Briefwechsel  Luthers," 
p.  87 ;  cp.  his  "Gesch.  d.  sachs.  Kirchen-  und  Schulvisitationen,"  p.  48. 
"  Corp.  ref.,"  1,  pp.  888,  913,  982.  Dollinger,  "  Reformation,"  1, 
pp.  302  f.,  369.  Above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  324. 

3  Quoted  in  Janssen,  "Hist,  of  the  German  People"  (Ens.  Trans.). 
5,  p.  100  f. 


living,  the  prevailing  contempt  and  blasphemy  of  the  Word  of 
God,  the  complete  neglect  of  the  Supper  and  the  general  flippant 
and  irreverent  behaviour  during  Divine  service."1 

Of  a  later  period,  when  the  fruits  of  the  change  of  religion  had 
still  further  ripened,  Melanchthon's  friend  Camerarius  says  : 
"  Mankind  have  now  attained  the  goal  of  their  desires — bound 
less  liberty  to  think  and  act  exactly  as  they  please.  Reason, 
moderation,  law,  morality  and  duty  have  lost  all  value,  there  is 
no  reverence  for  contemporaries  and  no  respect  for  posterity."2 

The  Elector  Augustus  of  Saxony  goes  more  into  particulars 
when  he  writes  :  "A  disgraceful  custom  has  become  established 
in  our  villages.  The  peasants  at  the  high  festivals,  such  as 
Christmas  and  Whitsuntide,  begin  their  drinking-bouts  on  the 
eve  of  the  festival  and  prolong  them  throughout  the  night,  and 
the  next  day  they  either  sleep  through  the  morning  or  else  come 
drunk  to  church  and  snore  and  grunt  like  pigs  during  the  whole 
service."  He  reproves  the  custom  of  making  use  of  the  churches 
as  wine-cellars,  the  contempt  displayed  for  the  preachers,  the 
scoffing  at  sacred  rites  and  the  "  frequent  blasphemy  and 
cursing."  "  Murder  and  abominable  lasciviousness  "  were  the 
consequences  of  such  contempt  for  religion.  But  any  improve 
ment  was  not  to  be  looked  for  seeing  that  there  were  hardly  any 
schools  remaining,  and  the  cure  of  souls  was  left  principally  in 
the  charge  of  ministers  such  as  the  Elector  proceeds  to  describe. 
The  nobles  and  the  other  feudal  lords,  he  says,  "  appoint  every 
where  to  the  ministry  ignorant,  destitute  artisans,  or  else  rig  out 
their  scribes,  outriders  or  grooms  as  priests  and  set  them  in  the 
livings  so  as  to  have  them  all  the  more  under  their  thumb."3 

The  state  of  things  in  Saxony  provided  the  Landgrave  with  a 
serviceable  weapon  against  Luther  when  the  latter  showed  an 
inclination  to  repudiate  the  bigamy,  or  to  say  he  had  merely 
"  acted  the  fool  "  in  sanctioning  it.  The  passage  has  been 
quoted  above  (p.  56),  where  the  Landgrave  exhorted  him  to 
pay  less  attention  to  the  world's  opinion,  but  rather  to  set  him 
self  and  all  the  preachers  in  the  Saxon  Electorate  to  the  task  of 
checking  the  "  vices  of  adultery,  usury  and  drunkenness  which 
were  no  longer  regarded  as  sins,  and  that,  not  merely  by  writings 
and  sermons,  but  by  earnest  admonition  and  by  means  of  the 

It  is  true  that  the  conditions  which  accompanied  the  introduc 
tion  of  his  new  system  were  a  trial  to  Luther,  which  he  sought  to 
remedy.  The  Landgrave  could  not  reproach  him  with  actual 
indifference.  Not  merely  by  "  writings  and  sermons,"  but  also  by 
"  earnest  admonition  "  and  even  by  re-introducing  the  "  ban  of 

1  From  Burkhardt,  ibid.    Janssen,  ibid. 

2  Janssen,  ibid.,  6,  p.  521,  given  as  Melanchthon's  words. 

3  A.  L.  Richter,  "  Die  evangel.  Kirchenordnungen  des  16.  Jahrh.," 
2,  pp.  181,  192  f.    Janssen,  ibid.,  p.  523.    W.  Schmidt  ("  Kirchen-  und 
Schulvisitationen    im    sachs.    Kurkreis    von    1555,"    1907,    Hft.    1—2, 
"  Schriften   des  Vereins  fiir  RG.,"  No.   90)  fancies  he  can  discern  a 
certain  improvement  in  ecclesiastical  life  and  in  the  school  system 
about  the  year  1555. 

IV.— P 

210          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

the  Church  "  he  strove  to  check  the  rising  tide  of  moral  evil.  But 
the  evil  was  the  stronger  of  the  two,  and  the  causes,  for  which  he 
himself  was  responsible,  lay  too  deep.  We  have  an  example  of 
the  way  in  which  he  frequently  sought  to  curb  the  mischief,  in  his 
quarrel  with  Hans  Metzsch,  the  depraved  Commandant  of 
Wittenberg,  whom  he  excluded  from  the  Supper.1 

He  sums  up  his  grievances  against  the  state  of  things  in  the 
Electorate  and  at  Wittenberg  in  a  letter  to  Johann  Mantel,  in 
which  he  calls  Wittenberg  a  new  Sodom.  He  writes  to  this 
preacher  (Nov.  10,  1539)  :  "  Together  with  Lot  (2  Peter  ii.  8), 
you  and  other  pious  Christians,  I,  too,  am  tormented,  plagued 
and  martyred  in  this  awful  Sodom  by  shameful  ingratitude  and 
horrible  contempt  of  the  Divine  Word  of  our  beloved  Saviour, 
when  I  see  how  Satan  seizes  upon  and  takes  possession  of  the 
hearts  of  those  who  think  themselves  the  first  and  most  important 
in  the  kingdom  of  Christ  and  of  God  ;  beyond  this  I  am  tempted 
and  plagued  with  interior  anxiety  and  distress."  He  then  goes 
on  to  console  his  friend,  who  was  also  troubled  with  melancholy 
and  the  fear  of  death,  by  a  sympathetic  reference  to  the  death 
of  Christ.  He  then  admits  again  of  himself  that  he  was  "  dis 
tressed  and  greatly  plagued  "  and  "  compassed  by  more  than 
one  kind  of  death  in  this  miserable,  lamentable  age,  where  there 
is  nothing  but  ingratitude,  and  where  every  kind  of  wickedness 
gains  the  upper  hand.  .  .  .  Wait  for  the  Lord  with  patience,  for 
He  is  now  at  hand  and  will  not  delay  to  come.  Amen."2 

3.  Luther's  Attempts  to  Explain  the  Decline  in  Morals 

Luther  quite  candidly  admitted  the  distressing  state  of  things 
described  above  without  in  the  least  glossing  it  over,  which 
indeed  he  could  not  well  have  done  ;  in  fact,  his  own  statements 
give  us  an  even  clearer  insight  into  the  seamy  side  of  life  in  his 
day.  He  speaks  of  the  growing  disorders  with  pain  and  vexation  ; 
the  more  so  since  he  could  not  but  see  that  they  were  being 
fomented  by  his  doctrine  of  justification  by  faith  alone. 

"  This  preaching,"  he  says,  "  ought  by  rights  to  be  accepted 
and  listened  to  with  great  joy,  and  everyone  ought  to  improve 
himself  thereby  and  become  more  pious.  But,  unfortunately, 
the  reverse  is  now  the  case  and  the  longer  it  endures  the  worse 
the  world  becomes  ;  this  is  [the  work  of]  the  devil  himself,  for 
now  we  see  the  people  becoming  more  infamous,  more  avaricious, 
more  unmerciful,  more  unchaste  and  in  every  way  worse  than 
they  were  under  Popery."3 

The  Evangelicals  now  are  not  me-rely  worse,  but  "  seven  times 
worse  than  before,"  so  he  complains  as  early  as  1529.  "  For  after 
having  heard  the  Evangel  we  still  continue  to  steal,  lie,  cheat, 
feed  and  swill  and  to  practise  every  vice.  Now  that  one  devil 

1  For  the  way  Metzsch  was  dealt  with,  see  Lauterbach,   "  Tage- 
buch,"  pp.  163,  167.     "  Briefe,"  6,  p.  213  f.    Below,  vol.  v.,  xxx.,  3. 

2  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  223  f. 

3  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  I2,  p.  14,  "  Hauspostille." 

THE    PREVALENT    LAXITY        211 

[that  of  Popery]  has  been  driven  out  seven  others  worse  than  it 
have  entered  into  us,  as  may  be  seen  from  the  way  the  Princes, 
lords,  nobles,  burghers  and  peasants  behave,  who  have  lost  all 
sense  of  fear,  and  regard  not  God  and  His  menaces."1 

From  his  writings  a  long,  dreary  list  of  sins  might  be 
compiled,  of  which  each  of  the  classes  here  mentioned  had 
been  guilty.  In  the  last  ten  years  of  his  life  such  lamenta 
tions  give  the  tone  to  most  of  what  he  wrote. 

"  The  nobles  scrape  money  together,  rob  and  plunder  "  ; 
"  like  so  many  devils  they  grind  the  poor  churches,  the  pastors 
and  the  preachers."  "  The  burghers  and  peasants  do  nothing 
but  hoard,  are  usurers  and  cheats  and  behave  defiantly  and 
wantonly  without  any  fear  of  punishment,  so  that  it  cries  to 
heaven  for  vengeance  and  the  earth  can  endure  it  no  longer." 
"  On  all  hands  and  wherever  we  turn  we  see  nothing  in  all  classes 
but  a  deluge  of  dreadful  ingratitude  for  the  beloved  Evangel."2 

"  Nowadays  the  Gospel  is  preached,  and  whoever  chooses  can 
hear  it  ...  but  burghers,  peasants  and  nobles  all  scorn  their 
ministers  and  preachers."3 

"  I  have  often  said  that  a  plague  must  fall  upon  Germany  ; 
the  Princes  and  gentry  deserve  that  our  Lord  God  should  play 
them  a  trick  ;  there  will  be  such  bloodshed  that  no  one  will 
know  his  own  home."4  "Now  that  all  this  [the  Evangel]  is 
preached  rightly  and  plainly,  people  cannot  despise  it  enough. 
In  old  days  monasteries  and  churches  were  built  with  no  regard 
for  cost,  now  people  won't  even  repair  a  hole  in  the  roof  that  the 
minister  may  lie  dry  ;  of  their  contempt  I  say  nothing,  it  is 
enough  to  move  one  to  tears  to  witness  such  scorn.  Hence  I  say  : 
Take  care,  you  are  young  ;  it  may  be  you  will  live  to  see  and 
experience  the  coming  misfortune  that  will  break  over  Germany. 
For  a  storm  will  burst  over  Germany,  and  that  without  fail.  .  .  . 
I  do  not  mind  so  much  the  peasants'  avarice  and  the  fornication 
and  immorality  now  on  the  increase  everywhere,  as  the  con 
tempt  for  the  Evangel.  .  .  .  That  peasants,  burghers  and  nobles 
thus  contemn  the  Word  of  God  will  be  their  undoing."5 

To  the  question  whence  the  moral  decline  amongst  the 
adherents  of  the  new  teaching  came,  Luther  was  wont  to  give 
various  answers.  Their  difference  and  his  occasional  self- 
contradictions  show  how  his  consciousness  of  the  disorders 
and  the  complaints  they  drew  from  every  side  drive  him 
into  a  corner. 

1  "Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  28,  p.  763;  Erl.  ed.,  36,  p.  411,  conclusion  of 
the  "  Auslegung  iiber  etlicho  Kapitel  des  fiinften  Buches  Mosis,"  1529. 

2  Ibid.,  Erl.  ed.,  92,  p.  330  f.,  "  Kirchenpostille." 

3  Ibid.,  42,  p.  4,  "  Hauspostille." 

4  Ibid.  5  Ibid.,  p.  6. 

212          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

The  most  correct  explanation  was,  of  course,  that  the 
mischief  was  due  to  the  nature  of  his  teaching  on  faith  and 
good  works  ;  to  this,  involuntarily,  he  comes  back  often 

"  That  we  are  now  so  lazy  and  cold  in  the  performance  of  good 
works,"  he  says,  in  a  recently  published  sermon  of  1528,  "  is  due 
to  our  no  longer  regarding  them  as  a  means  of  justification.  For 
when  we  still  hoped  to  be  justified  by  our  works  our  zeal  for  doing 
good  was  a  marvel.  One  sought  to  excel  the  other  in  uprightness 
and  piety.  Were  the  old  teaching  to  be  revived  to-day  and  our 
works  made  contributory  to  righteousness,  we  should  be  readier 
and  more  willing  to  do  what  is  good.  Of  this  there  is,  however, 
no  prospect  and  thus,  when  it  is  a  question  of  serving  our  neigh 
bour  and  praising  God  by  means  of  good  works,  we  are  sluggish 
and  not  disposed  to  do  anything."1  "The  surer  we  are  of  the 
righteousness  which  Christ  has  won  for  us,  the  colder  and  idler 
we  are  in  teaching  the  Word,  in  prayer,  in  good  works  and  in 
enduring  misfortune."2 

"  We  teach,"  he  continues,  "  that  we  attain  to  God's  grace 
without  any  work  on  our  part.  Hence  it  comes  that  we  are  so 
listless  in  doing  good.  When,  once  upon  a  time,  we  believed  that 
God  rewarded  our  works,  I  ran  to  the  monastery,  and  you  gave 
ten  gulden  towards  building  a  church.  Men  then  were  glad  to 
do  something  through  their  works  and  to  be  their  own  '  Justus  et 
Salvator  '  (Zach.  ix.,  9)."  Now,  when  asked  to  give,  everybody 
protests  he  is  poor  and  a  beggar,  and  says  there  is  no  obligation 
of  giving  or  of  performing  good  works.  "  We  have  become  worse 
than  formerly  and  are  losing  our  old  righteousness.  Moreover, 
avarice  is  increasing  everywhere."3 

Though  here  Luther  finds  the  reason  of  the  neglect  of  good 
works  so  clearly  in  his  own  teaching,  yet  on  other  occasions,  for 
instance,  in  a  sermon  of  1532,  he  grows  angry  when  his  doctrine 
is  made  responsible  for  the  mischief. 

Only  "  clamourers,"  so  he  says,  could  press  such  a  charge. 
Yet,  at  the  same  time,  he  fully  admits  the  decline  :  "I  own,  and 
others  doubtless  do  the  same,  that  there  is  not  now  such  earnest 
ness  in  the  Gospel  as  formerly  under  the  monks  and  priests  when 
so  many  foundations  were  made,  when  there  was  so  much  build 
ing  and  no  one  was  so  poor  as  not  to  be  able  to  give.  But  now 
there  is  not  a  town  willing  to  support  a  preacher,  there  is  nothing 
but  plundering  and  thieving  among  the  people  and  no  one  can 
prevent  it.  Whence  comes  this  shameful  plague  ?  The 
clamourers  answer,  '  from  the  teaching  that  we  must  not  build 
upon  or  trust  in  works.'  But  it  is  the  devil  himself  who  sets  down 
such  an  effect  to  pure  and  wholesome  doctrine,  whereas  it  is 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  27,  p.  443. 

"  Comment,  in  ep.  ad  Galatas,"  2,  p.  351. 

"  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  27,  p.  443,  according  to  another  set  of  notes 
of  the  sermon  quoted  in  n.  1. 

THE    PREVALENT    LAXITY         213 

in  reality  due  to  his  own  and  the  people's  malice  who  ill-use  such 
doctrines,  and  to  our  old  Adam.  .  .  .  We  are,  all  unawares, 
becoming  lazy,  careless  and  remiss."1 

"  The  devil's  malice  !  "  This  is  another  explanation  to 
which  Luther  and  others  not  unfrequently  had  recourse. 
The  devil  could  do  such  extraordinary  and  apparently  con 
tradictory  things  !  He  could  even  teach  men  to  "  pray 
fervently."  In  the  Table-Talk,  for  instance,  when  asked 
by  his  wife  why  it  was,  that,  whereas  in  Popery  "  we  prayed 
so  diligently  and  frequently,  we  are  now  so  cold  and  pray 
so  seldom,"  Luther  put  it  down  to  the  devil.  "  The  devil 
made  us  fervent,"  he  says  ;  "he  ever  urges  on  his  servants, 
but  the  Holy  Ghost  teaches  and  exhorts  us  how  to  pray 
aright ;  yet  we  are  so  tepid  and  slothful  in  prayer  that 
nothing  comes  of  it."2  Thus  it  might  well  be  the  devil  who 
was  answerable  for  the  misuse  of  the  Evangel. 

On  another  occasion,  in  order  to  counteract  the  bad 
impression  made  on  his  contemporaries  by  the  fruits  of  his 
preaching,  he  says  :  "  Our  morals  only  look  so  bad  on 
account  of  the  sanctity  of  the  Evangel ;  in  Catholic  times 
they  stood  very  low  and  many  vices  prevailed,  but  all  this 
was  unperceived  amidst  the  general  darkness  which  shrouded 
doctrine  and  the  moral  standards  which  then  held  ;  now, 
on  the  other  hand,  our  eyes  have  been  opened  by  a  purer 
faith  and  even  small  abuses  are  seen  in  their  true  colours." 
His  words  on  this  subject  will  be  given  below. 

It  even  seemed  to  Luther  that  the  decay  of  almsgiving 
and  the  parsimony  displayed  towards  the  churches  and  the 
preachers  proved  the  truth  of  the  Evangel  ("  signum  est, 
verutn  esse  evangelium  nostrum  "),  for,  so  he  teaches  in  a 
sermon  preached  at  Wittenberg  in  1527,  "  the  devil  is  the 
Prince  of  this  world  and  all  its  riches,  as  we  learn  from  the 
story  of  Christ's  Temptation.  He  is  now  defending  his 
kingdom  from  the  Evangel  which  has  risen  up  against  him. 
He  does  not  now  allow  us  so  many  possessions  and  gifts  as 
he  formerly  did  to  those  who  served  him  (i.e.  the  Papists), 
for  their  Masses,  Vigils,  etc.  ;  nay,  he  robs  us  of  everything 
and  spends  it  on  himself.  Formerly  we  supported  many 
hundred  monks  and  now  we  cannot  raise  the  needful  for 
one  Evangelical  preacher,  a  sign  that  our  Evangel  is  the 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  182,  p.  353. 

2  Ibid.,  59,  p.  6.     Cp.  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  95. 

214          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

true  one  and  that  the  Pope's  empire  was  the  devil's  own, 
where  he  bestowed  gifts  on  his  followers  with  open  hands 
and  incited  them  to  luxury,  avarice,  fornication  and  gluttony. 
And  their  teaching  was  in  conformity  therewith,  for  they 
urged  those  works  which  pleased  them."1 

The  observer  may  well  marvel  at  such  strange  trains  of 
thought.  Luther's  doctrine  has  become  to  him  like  a  pole- 
star  around  which  the  whole  firmament  must  revolve. 
Experience  and  logic  alike  must  perforce  be  moulded  at  his 
pleasure  to  suit  the  idea  which  dominates  him. 

It  was  impossible  to  suppress  the  inexorable  question 
put  by  his  opponents,  and  the  faint-hearted  doubts  of  many 
.of  his  own  followers  :  Since  our  Saviour  taught  :  "  By 
their  fruits  shall  you  know  them,"  how  can  you  be  a  Divinely 
sent  teacher  if  these  are  the  moral  effects  of  your  new 
Evangel  ?  And  yet  Luther,  to  the  very  close  of  his  career, 
in  tones  ever  more  confident,  insists  on  his  higher,  nay, 
Divine,  calling,  and  on  his  election  to  "  reveal  "  hidden 
doctrines  of  faith,  strange  to  say,  those  very  doctrines  to 
which  he,  like  others  too,  attributed  the  decline. 

Concerning  his  Divine  mission  he  had  not  hesitated  to 
say  in  so  many  words  :  Unless  God  calls  a  man  to  do  a 
work  no  one  who  does  not  wish  to  be  a  fool  may  venture  to 
undertake  it  ;  "  for  a  certain  Divine  call  and  not  a  mere 
whim  "  is  essential  to  every  good  work.2  Hence  he  fre 
quently  sees  in  success  the  best  test  of  a  good  work.  In 
his  own  case,  however,  he  could  point  only  to  one  great 
result,  and  that  a  negative  one,  viz.  the  harm  done  to 
Popery  ;  the  Papacy  had  been  no  match  for  him  and  had 
failed  to  check  the  apostasy.  The  Papists'  undertaking, 
such  is  his  proof,  is  not  a  success  ;  it  goes  sideways  "  after 
the  fashion  of  the  crab."  "  Even  for  those  who  had  a  sure 
Divine  vocation  it  was  difficult  to  undertake  and  carry 
through  anything  good,  though  God  was  with  them  and 
assisted  them ;  what  then  could  those  silly  fools,  who 
wished  to  undertake  it  without  being  called,  expect  to  do  ?  " 
"  But  I,  Dr.  Martin,  was  called  and  compelled  to  become  a 
Doctor.  .  .  .  Thus  I  was  obliged  to  accept  the  office  of  a 
Doctor.  Hence,  owing  to  my  work,  "  this  which  you  see 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  24,  p.  455. 

2  Ibid.,  30,   3,  p.  386  ;    Erl.  ed.,   252,  p.   86,   "  Auff  das  vermeint 
Edict,"  1531. 

THE    PREVALENT   LAXITY         215 

has  befallen  the  Papacy,  and  worse  things  are  yet  in  store 
for  it."  To  those  who  still  refused  to  acknowledge  Luther's 
call  to  teach  he  addresses  a  sort  of  command  :  St.  Paul,  1  Cor. 
xiv.,  30,  commanded  all,  even  superiors,  to  be  silent  and 
obey  "  when  some  other  than  the  chief  teacher  receives 
a  revelation."  "  The  work  that  Luther  undertakes," 
"  the  great  work  of  the  Reformation,"  he  assures  all,  was 
given  not  to  the  other  side,  but  to  him  alone.1 — It  is  no 
wonder  that  his  gainsayers  and  the  doubters  on  his  own 
side  refused  to  be  convinced  by  such  arguments  and 
appeals  to  the  work  of  destruction,  accomplished,  but 
continued  to  harp  on  the  words  :  "  By  their  fruits  you 
shall  know  them,"  which  text  they  took  literally,  viz.  as 
referring  to  actual  fruits  of  moral  improvement. 

The  "  great  work  of  the  Reformation,"  i.e.  of  real  reform, 
to  which  Luther  appeals — unless  he  was  prepared  to  regard 
it  as  consisting  solely  in  the  damage  done  to  the  Roman 
Church — surely  demanded  that,  at  least  at  Wittenberg  and 
in  Luther's  immediate  sphere,  some  definite  fruits  in  the 
shape  of  real  moral  amelioration  should  be  apparent.  Yet 
it  was  precisely  of  Wittenberg  and  his  own  surroundings 
that  Luther  complained  so  loudly.  The  increase  of  every 
kind  of  disorder  caused  him  to  write  to  George  of  Anhalt  : 
"  We  live  in  Sodom  and  Babylon,  or  rather  must  die  there  ; 
the  good  men,  our  Lots  and  Daniels,  whom  we  so  urgently 
need  now  that  things  are  daily  becoming  worse,  are  snatched 
from  us  by  death."2  So  bad  were  matters  that  Luther  was 
at  last  driven  to  flee  from  Wittenberg.  The  sight  of  the 
immorality,  the  vexation  and  the  complaints  to  which  he  was 
exposed  became  too  much  for  him  ;  perhaps  Wittenberg 
would  catch  the  "  Beggars'  dance,  or  Beelzebub's  dance," 
he  wrote  ;  "  at  any  rate  get  us  gone  from  this  Sodom."3 

According  to  his  letters,  the  Wittenberg  authorities  did  not 
interfere  even  in  the  case  of  the  gravest  disorders,  but  allowed 
themselves  to  be  "  playthings  of  the  devils  "  ;  they  looked  on 
whilst  the  students  "  were  ruined  by  bad  women,"  and  "  though 
half  the  town  is  guilty  of  adultery,  usury,  theft  and  cheating, 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  p.  385  ff.  =  86  f. 

2  March  9,   1545,   "  Briefe,"  ed.  De  Wette,  5,  p.  722,  letter  called 
forth  by  the  death  of -George  Held  Forchheim,  to  whom  the  Prince  was 
much  attached. 

3  To  Catherine  Bora,  end  of  July,  1545,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  753. 

216         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

no  one  tries  to  put  the  law  in  force.  They  all  simply  smile,  wink 
at  it  and  do  the  same  themselves.  The  world  is  a  troublesome 
thing."1  "The  hoiden-folk  have  grown  bold,"  he  writes  to  the 
Elector,  "  they  pursue  the  young  fellows  into  their  very  rooms 
and  chambers,  freely  offering  them  their  love  ;  and  I  hear  that 
many  parents  are  recalling  their  children  home  because,  they  say, 
when  they  send  their  children  to  us  to  study  we  hang  women 
about  their  necks."2  He  is  aghast  at  the  thought  that  the 
"  town  and  the  school  "  should  have  heard  God's  Word  so  often 
and  so  long  and  yet,  "  instead  of  growing  better,  become  worse  as 
time  goes  on."  He  fears  that  at  his  end  he  may  hear,  "that 
things  were  never  worse  than  now,"  and  sees  Wittenberg  threat 
ened  with  the  curse  of  Chorazin,  Bethsaida  and  Capharnaum."3 

In  point  of  fact  he  did  preach  a  sermon  to  the  Wittenbergers 
in  which,  like  a  prophet,  he  predicts  the  judgments  of  heaven.4 

In  another  sermon  he  angrily  acquaints  them  with  his  deter 
mination  :  "  What  am  I  to  do  with  you  Wittenbergers  ?  I  am 
not  going  to  preach  to  you  any  longer  of  Christ's  Kingdom,  seeing 
that  you  will  not  accept  it.  You  are  thieves,  robbers  and  men  of 
no  mercy.  I  shall  have  to  preach  you  the  '  Sachsenspiegel.'  ' 
They  refuse,  he  says,  to  give  anything  to  clergy,  church  or  schools. 
"  Are  you  still  ignorant,  you  unthankful  beasts  ('  ingratce  bestiw  ') 
of  what  they  do  for  you  ?  "  He  concludes  :  They  must  make  up 
their  minds  to  provide  the  needful,  "  otherwise  I  shall  abandon 
the  pulpit."5 

"  Later  you  will  find  my  prophecy  fulfilled,"  he  cried  on  cne 
occasion  after  having  foretold  "  woes  "  ;  "  then  you  will  long 
for  one  of  those  exhortations  of  Martin  Luther."6 

His  Table-Talk  bears,  if  possible,  even  stronger  witness  than 
his  letters  and  sermons  to  the  conditions  at  Wittenberg,  for  there 
he  freely  lets  himself  go.  Some  of  the  things  he  says  of  the  town 
and  neighbourhood,  found  in  the  authentic  notes  of  docile  pupils, 
such  as  Mathesius-,  Lauterbach  and  Schlaginhaufen,  are  worth 

We  hear  from  Lauterbach  not  only  that  Hans  Metzsch,  the 
town  Commandant  whom  Luther  had  "  excommunicated,"  con 
tinued  to  persecute  the  good  at  Wittenberg  "  with  satanic 
malice  "  and  to  "  boast  of  his  wickedness,"7  but  that  in  the  same 
year  Luther  had  to  complain  of  other  men  of  influence  and  stand 
ing  in  the  town  who  injured  the  Evangel  by  their  example.  "  So 
great  is  the  godlessness  of  those  of  rank  that  one  was  not  ashamed 
to  boast  of  having  begotten  forty-three  children  in  a  single  year  ; 
another  asked  whether  he  might  not  take  40  per  cent  interest  per 
annum."  In  the  same  year  Luther  was  obliged  to  exclude  from 
the  Sacrament  another  notorious,  highly-placed  usurer.8 

1  To  Justus  Jonas,  June  18,  1543,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  570. 

2  On  Jan.  22,  1544,  "  Briefe,"  5,  p.  615. 

3  "  Vermahnung,"  Feb.  or  Nov.,  1542,  "  Briefe,"  6,  p.  302. 

4  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  34,  2,  p.  80  ff.  ;   Erl.  ed.,  182,  p.  23  ff. 
6  Ibid.,  27,  p.  408  f.,  in  the  newly  published  sermons  of  1528. 

6  Ibid.,  p.  418  f.  7  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  107. 

6  Ibid,,  p.  153. 

THE   PREVALENT   LAXITY         217 

"  The  soil  of  Wittenberg  is  bad,"  he  declared,  speaking  from 
sad  experience  ;  "  even  were  good,  honest  people  sown  here  the 
crop  would  be  one  of  coarse  Saxons."1 

"  The  Gospel  at  Wittenberg,"  he  once  said  poetically,  if  we 
may  trust  Mathesius,  "  is  like  rain  that  falls  on  water,  i.e.  it  has 
no  effect.  The  good  catch  the  law  and  the  wicked  the  Gospel."2 

"  I  have  often  wondered,"  he  said  in  1532,  according  to 
Schlaginhaufen,  "  why  Our  Lord  God  sent  His  Word  to  this  un 
faithful  world  of  Wittenberg  :  I  believe  that  He  sent  it  to 
Jerusalem,  Wittenberg  and  such-like  places  that  He  might,  at 
the  Last  Day,  be  able  to  reprove  their  ingratitude."  And  again, 
"  My  opinion  is  that  God  will  punish  severely  the  ingratitude 
shown  to  His  Word  ;  for  there  is  not  a  man  of  position  or  a 
peasant  who  does  not  stamp  on  the  ministers  ;  but  the  service  of 
the  Word  must  remain  ;  even  the  Turk  has  his  ministers,  other 
wise  he  could  not  maintain  his  rule."3 

Luther's  Evangel  had  made  "  law  and  command  "  to  retreat 
into  the  background  as  compared  with  the  liberty  of  the  children 
of  God  ;  the  penalties  he  devised,  e.g.  his  exclusion  of  persons 
from  the  reception  of  the  Sacrament,  proved  ineffectual.  He 
would  willingly  have  made  use  of  excommunication  if  only 
"  there  had  been  people  who  would  let  themselves  be  excom 
municated."  "  The  Pope's  ban  which  kept  the  people  in  check," 
he  says,  "  has  been  abolished,  and  it  would  be  a  difficult  task  to 
re-establish  law  and  command."4 

"  No,  I  should  not  like  to  endure  this  life  for  another  forty 
years,"  so  he  told  his  friends  on  June  11,  1539,  "  even  were  God 
to  turn  it  into  a  Paradise  for  me.  I  would  rather  hire  an  execu 
tioner  to  chop  off  my  head  ;  the  world  is  so  bad  that  all  are  turn 
ing  into  devils,  so  that  they  could  wish  one  nothing  better  than  a 
happy  death-bed,  and  then  away  !  "5  "  The  dear,  holy  Evangel  of 
Christ,  that  great  and  precious  treasure,  we  account  as  insignifi 
cant,  as  if  it  were  a  verse  from  Terence  or  Virgil."6 

He  found  such  disdain  of  his  teaching  even  in  his  own  house 
hold  a.nd  family.  This  it  was  which  caused  him,  in  1532,  to 
preach  a  course  of  sermons  to  his  family  circle  on  Sundays.  No 
head  of  a  family,  least  of  all  here,  could  connive  at  any  "  contempt 
of  the  Word."  To  the  question  of  Dr.  Jonas  as  to  the  wherefore 
of  these  private  addresses,  he  replied  :  "I  see  and  know  that  the 
Word  of  God  is  as  much  neglected  in  my  house  as  in  the  Church."7 

There  was  no  more  hope  for  the  world  ;  nothing  remains  "  un 
spoiled  and  incorrupt  "  although,  "  now,  God's  Word  is  revealed," 
yet  "it  is  despised,  spurned,  corrupted,  mocked  at  and  perse 
cuted,"  even  by  the  adherents  of  his  teaching.8 

Luther  made  Mathesius  the  recipient  of  some  of  his  confidences, 

1  Lauterbach,  "Tagebuch,"  179. 

2  Mathesius,  "  Aufzeichnungen,"  p.  402. 

3  Schlaginhaufen,  "  Aufzeichnungen,"  p.  139.          4  Ibid.,  p.  138. 
6  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  3,  p.  185. 

6  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  57,  p.  323  (Table-Talk). 

7  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Rebenstock,  2,  p.  19. 

8  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  57,  p.  95  f.  (Table-Talk). 

218         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

as  the  latter  relates  in  his  sermons  ;  on  account  of  the  scandals 
among  the  preachers  of  the  neighbourhood  he  was  forced  and 
urged  by  his  own  people  to  appeal  to  the  Elector  to  erect  a  jail 
"  into  which  such  wild  and  turbulent  folk  might  be  clapped." 
"  Satan  causes  great  scandals  amongst  the  patrons  and  hearers 
of  the  new  doctrine,"  says  Mathesius.  The  common  people  have 
become  rough  and  self-confident  and  have  begun  to  regard  the  min 
isters  as  worthless.  "  Verily,"  he  exclaims,  "  the  soul  of  this  pious 
old  gentleman  was  sadly  tormented  day  by  day  by  the  unrighteous 
deeds  he  was  obliged  to  witness,  like  pious  Lot  in  Sodom."1 

With  a  deep  sigh,  as  we  read  in  Lauterbach's  Notes,  Luther 
pointed  to  the  calamities  which  were  about  to  overtake  the 
world  ;  it  was  so  perverse  and  incorrigible  thfet  discipline  or 
admonition  would  be  of  no  avail.  Already  there  was  the  greatest 
consternation  throughout  the  world  on  account  of  the  revelation 
of  the  Word.  "  It  is  cracking  and  I  hope  it  will  soon  burst,"  and 
the  Last  Day  arrive  for  which  we  are  waiting.  For  all  vices 
have  now  become  habitual  and  people  will  not  bear  reproof.  His 
only  comfort  was  the  progress  made  by  studies  at  Wittenberg, 
and  in  some  other  places  now  thrown  open  to  the  Evangel.2 

But  how  were  the  future  preachers  now  growing  up  there  to 
improve  matters  ?  This  he  must  well  have  asked  himself  when 
declaring,  "  with  sobs,"  as  Lauterbach  relates,  that  "  preachers 
were  treated  in  most  godless  and  ungrateful  fashion."  The 
churches  will  soon  be  left  without  preachers  and  ministers  ;  we 
shall  shortly  experience  this  misfortune  in  the  churches  ;  there 
will  be  a  dearth  not  only  of  learned  men  but  even  of  men  of  the 
commonest  sort.  Oh,  that  our  young  men  would  study  more 
diligently  and  devote  themselves  to  theology."3 

In  view  of  the  above  it  cannot  surprise  us  that  Luther 
gradually  became  a  victim  to  habitual  discouragement  and 
melancholy,  particularly  towards  the  end  of  his  life.  Proofs 
of  the  depression  from  which  he  suffered  during  the  latter 
years  of  his  life  will  be  brought  forward  in  a  later  volume. 

Such  fits  of  depression  were,  however,  in  those  days  more 
than  usually  common  everywhere, 

4.  A  Malady  of  the  Age  :  Doubts  and  Melancholy 

One  of  the  phenomena  which  accompanied  the  religious 
revulsion  and  which  it  is  impossible  to  pass  over,  was,  as 
contemporary  writers  relate,  the  sadness,  discontent  and 
depression,  in  a  word  "  melancholy,"  so  widespread  under 
the  new  Evangel  even  amongst  its  zealous  promoters. 

1  "  Historian,"  p.  136'.      Cp.  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  120  and 
ibid.,  Introduction,  p.  72  ;  Lauterbach,  "Tagebuch,"  p.  13.    See  above, 
p.  210. 

2  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  70,  Khummer.  3  Ibid.,  p.  80. 


Melanchthon,  one  of  Luther's  most  intimate  friends, 
furnished  on  many  occasions  of  his  life  a  sad  spectacle  of 
interior  dejection.  Of  a  weaker  and  more  timid  mental 
build  than  Luther,  he  appeared  at  times  ready  to  succumb 
under  the  weight  of  faint-heartedness  and  scruples,  doubts 
and  self-reproaches.  (Cp.  vol.  iii.,  p.  363  ff.)  We  may 
recall  how  his  anxieties,  caused  by  the  scandal  subsequent  on 
his  sanctioning  of  Philip's  bigamy,  almost  cost  him  his  life. 
So  many  are  the  records  he  left  behind  of  discouragement 
and  despondency  that  his  death  must  appear  in  the  light  of 
a  welcome  deliverance.  Luther  sought  again  .and  again  to 
revive  in  him  the  waning  consciousness  of  the  Divine 
character  of  their  work.  It  is  just  in  these  letters  of  Luther 
to  Melanchthon  that  we  find  him  most  emphatic  in  his 
assertion  that  their  common  mission  is  from  God.  It  was 
to  Melanchthon,  that,  next  to  himself,  Luther  applied  the 
words  already  quoted,  spoken  to  comfort  a  dejected  pupil  : 
"  There  must  be  some  in  the  Church  as  ready  to  slap  Satan 
as  we  three  ;  but  not  all  are  able  or  willing  to  endure  this."1 

Spalatin,  who  has  so  frequently  been  referred  to  as 
Luther's  go-between  at  the  Electoral  Court,  and  who  after 
wards  became  pastor  of  Altenburg,  towards  the  end  of 
his  life  fell  into  incurable  despondency.2  Justus  Jonas,  like 
wise,  was  for  a  considerable  time  a  prey  to  melancholy.3 
Hieronymus  Weller,  one  of  Luther's  best  friends,  confessed 
to  having  suffered  at  times  such  violent  doubts  and  fears  as 
would  have  driven  a  heathen  to  commit  suicide.4  The 
preachers  George  Mohr  5  and  Nicholas  Hausmann  (a  very 
intimate  friend  of  Luther's6)  had  to  endure  dreadful  pangs 
of  soul  ;  the  same  was  the  case  with  Johann  Beltzius,  Pastor 

1  Above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  410. 

2  G.  Wagner,   "  Georg  Spalatin,"  Altenburg,   1830,  p.   105  f.     Cp. 
Luther's  letter  to  Spalatin,  quoted  in  vol.  iii.,  p.   197,  n.  1,  where  he 
tells  him  :    "  Tristitia  occidet  te  "  ;   by  his  (Luther's)  mouth  Christ  had 
raised  up  Melanchthon  from  a  similar  state  induced  by  the  "  spiritus 
tristitice  "  ;    such  continuous  sorrow  over  sin  was  an  even  greater  sin  ; 
he  was  still  inexperienced  "  in  the  battle  against  sin  or  conscience  and 
the  law  "  ;   now,  however,  he  must  look  upon  Luther  as  St.  Peter,  who 
speaks  to  him  as  he  did  to  the  lame  man :    "In  the  name  of  Christ, 
arise  and  walk  "  ;    Christ  did  not  wish  him  to  be   "  crucified  with 
sorrow  "  ;    this  came  from  the  devil. — We  do  not  learn  that  these 
words  had  any  effect. 

3  Cp.  above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  416.   *  Dollinger,  "  Die  Reformation,"  2,  p.  193. 

5  "  Fortgesetzte  Sammlung,"  Leipzig,  1740,  p.  519. 

6  M.  Hempel,  "  Libellus  H.  Welleri,"  Lipsise,  1581,  p.  60. 

220         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

at  Allerstedt  in  Thuringia,1  and  with  Simon  Musaeus,  who 
died  at  Mansfeld  in  1576  as  Superintendent  and  who  com 
posed  two  works  against  the  devil  of  melancholy.2  Nicholas 
Selnecker,  who  died  Superintendent  at  Leipzig,  was  respon 
sible  for  the  rearranged  edition  of  Luther's  Table-Talk  ; 
according  to  the  title  his  hope  was  to  produce  a  work 
"  which  it  might  console  all  Christians  to  read,  especially 
in  these  wretched  last  days."  Elsewhere  he  confirms  the 
need  of  such  consolation  when  he  says  :  "  We  experience 
in  our  own  selves  "  that  sadness  is  of  frequent  occurrence.3 

Wolfgang  Capito,  the  Strasburg  preacher,  wrote  in  1536 
to  Luther  that  his  experience  of  the  wrant  of  agreement  in 
doctrine  had  caused  him  such  distress  of  mind  that  he  was 
on  the  verge  of  the  "  malady  of  melancholia  "  ;  he  trusted 
he  would  succeed  in  reaching  a  better  frame  of  mind  ;  the 
burden  of  gloom,  so  he  comforts  himself,  was,  after  all,  not 
without  its  purpose  in  God's  plan  in  the  case  of  many  under 
the  Evangel.  With  Capito,  too,  melancholy  was  a  "  frequent 
guest."4  Bucer  wrote  in  1532  to  A.  Blaurer  that  Capito 
had  often  bemoaned  "  his  rejection  by  God."5 

Joachim  Camerarius,  the  celebrated  Humanist  and  writer, 
confessed  in  a  letter  to  Luther,  that  he  was  oppressed  and 
reduced  to  despair  by  the  sight  of  the  decline  in  morals 
"  in  people  of  every  age  and  sex,  in  every  condition  and 
grade  of  life  "  ;  everything,  in  both  public  and  private  life, 

1  H.  Weller,  Preface  to  Beltzius,  "  On  Man's  Conversion,"  Leipzig, 

~  He  wrote  "  Against  the  grievous  plague  of  Melancholy,"  Erfurt, 
1557,  and  "  A  useful  instruction  against  the  demon  of  melancholy," 
1569  (s.l.).  In  the  latter  work  he  says  in  the  Preface  that  he  con 
sidered  himself  all  the  more  called  to  comfort  "  sad  and  sorrowful 
hearts  "  because  he  himself  "  not  seldom  lay  sick  in  that  same 

3  "  We   experience   in    our   own   selves,    that   our   hearts   become 
increasingly  stupid,  weak  and  timid,  and  often  know  not  whence  it 
comes  or  what  it  is."     "  Der  ganze  Psalter,"  Bd.  2,  Niirnberg,   1565, 
p.  94.— On  his  edition  of  the  Table-Talk,  cp.  "  Luthers  Werke,"  Erl. 
ed.,  57,  p.  xvi. 

4  Cp.  Kolde,  "  Analecta,"  p.  231,  where  Capito's  letter  to  Luther  of 
June  13,  1536,  is  given.    The  letter  is  also  in  Luther's  "  Brief wechsel," 
10,  p.  353.     Capito  there  laments,   "  me  deiectiorem  apud  me  factum, 
adeo  ut  in  morbum  melancholicum  props  inciderim.     Hilaritatem,   si 
potero,   revocabo."      The   internal   dissensions,    which   pained   and   dis 
tressed  him  to  the  last  degree,  were  the  immediate  cause  of  his  sadness, 
so  he  declares. 

6  C.  Gerbert,  "  Gesch.  der  Strassburger  Sektehbewegung  zur  Zeit 
der  Reformation,"  Strasburg,  1889,  p.  183  f. 


was  so  corrupt  that  he  felt  all  piety  and  virtue  was  done  for. 
Of  the  Schools  in  particular  he  woefully  exclaimed  that  it 
would  perhaps  be  better  to  have  none  than  to  have  "  such 
haunts  of  godlessness  and  vice."  At  the  same  time,  however, 
he  makes  admissions  concerning  faults  of  his  own  which 
may  have  served  to  increase  his  dejection  :  He  himself,  in 
his  young  days,  had,  like  others,  disgraced  himself  by  a 
very  vicious  life  ("  turpissime  in  adolescentia  deformatum  ").x 

The  Nuremberg  preacher,  George  Besler,  fell  into  a  state 
of  melancholia,  declared  "  in  his  ravings  that  things  were 
not  going  right  in  the  Church,"  began  to  see  hidden  enemies 
everywhere  and  finally  committed  suicide  with  a  "  hog- 
spear  "  in  1536.2  William  Bidembach,  preacher  at  Stuttgart, 
and  his  brother  Balthasar,  Abbot  of  Bebenhausen,  both 
became  a  prey  to  melancholia  towards  the  end  of  their  life.3 

It  would,  of  course,  be  foolish  to  think  that  many  good 
souls,  in  the  simplicity  of  their  heart,  found  no  consolation 
in  the  new  teaching  and  in  working  for  its  furtherance.  Of 
the  preachers,  for  instance,  Beltzius,  who  has  just  been 
mentioned,  declares,  that,  amidst  his  sadness  Luther's 
consolations  had  "  saved  him  from  the  abyss  of  hell."4 
Amongst  those  who  adhered  in  good  faith  to  the  innovations 
there  were  some  who  highly  lauded  the  solace  of  the  Evangel. 
But,  notwithstanding  all  that  may  be  alleged  to  the 
contrary,  we  cannot  get  over  such  testimonies  as  the 

Felix,  son  of  the  above-mentioned  William  Bidembach, 
and  Court  preacher  in  Wiirtemberg,  declared  in  a  "  Hand 
book  for  young  church  ministers  "  :  "It  happens  more  and 
more  frequently  that  many  pious  people  fall  into  distressing 
sadness  and  real  melancholia,  to  such  an  extent  that  they 
constantly  experience  in  their  hearts  fear,  apprehension, 
dread  and  despair  "  ;  in  the  course  of  his  ministry  he  had 
met  with  both  persons  of  position  and  common  folk  who 
were  oppressed  with  such  melancholia.5  Nicholas  Selnecker 
(above,  p.  220)  assures  us  that  not  only  were  theologians 

1  Kolde,  "  Analecta,"  p.  462  seq. 

2  Contemporary   account   in   J.    C.    Siebenkees,    "  Materialien   zur 
Niirnberg.  Gesch.,"  2,  Nuremberg,  1792,  p.  754. 

3  Fischlin,    "  Memoria  theoloyorum    Wirlembergensium,"    1,  Ulmae, 
1720,  pp.  144,  171. 

4  Cp.  Beltzius,  "  Vom  Jammer  und  Elend  menschlichen  Lebens  und 
Wesens,"  Leipzig,  1574,  Bl.  3'. 

6  "  Handbuch,"  etc.,  Frankfurt  a.  M.,  1613,  p.  725  f.  (1  ed.,  1603). 


perplexed  with  many  "  melancholy  and  anxious  souls  and 
consciences  whom  nothing  could  console,"  but  physicians, 
too,  "  never  remembered  such  prevalence  of  evil  melan 
cholia,  depression  and  sadness,  even  in  the  young,  and  of 
other  maladies  arising  therefrom,  as  during  these  few  years, 
and  such  misfortune  continues  still  to  grow  and  increase."1 

The  Leipzig  Pastor,  Erasmus  Sarcerius,  speaks  in  a 
similar  strain  of  the  "  general  faint-heartedness  prevalent  in 
every  class,"  who  are  acquainted  with  nothing  but  "  fear 
and  apprehension  "  ;2  Victorinus  Strigel,  Professor  at  the 
University  of  Leipzig,  of  the  "  many  persons  who  in  our 
day  have  died  simply  and  solely  of  grief  "  ;  3  Michael 
Sachse,  preacher  at  Wechmar,  of  people  generally  as  being 
"  timid  and  anxious,  trembling  and  despairing  from  fear."4 

When  the  preacher  Leonard  Beyer  related  to  Luther  how 
in  his  great  "  temptations  "  the  devil  had  tried  to  induce 
him  to  stab  himself,  Luther  consoled  him  by  telling  him 
that  the  same  had  happened  in  his  own  case.5 

We  are  told  that  in  latter  life  Luther's  pupil  Mathesius 
was  a  prey  to  a  "  hellish  fear  "  which  lasted  almost  three 
months  ;  "he  could  not  even  look  at  a  knife  because  the 
sight  tempted  him  to  suicide."6  Later,  his  condition 
improved.  The  same  Mathesius  relates  how  Pastor  Musa 
found  consolation  in  his  gloomy  doubts  on  faith  in  Luther's 
account  of  his  own  similar  storms  of  doubt. 7 

In  the  16th  century  we  hear  many  lamentations  in 
Protestant  circles  concerning  the  unheard-of  increase  in  the 
number  of  suicides. 

"  There  is  such  an  outcry  amongst  the  people,"  wrote  the 
Lausitz  Superintendent,  Zacharias  Rivander,  "  that  it  deafens 
one's  ears  and  makes  one's  hair  stand  on  end.  The  people  are  so 
heavy-hearted  and  yet  know  not  why.  Amidst  such  lowness  of 
spirit  many  are  unable  to  find  consolation,  and,  so,  cut  their 
throats  and  slay  themselves."8 — In  1554  the  Nuremberg 
Councillor,  Hieronymus  Baumgiirtner,  lamented  at  a  meeting 
attended  by  the  clergy  of  the  town  :  "  We  hear,  alas,  how  daily 

1  "  Der  ganze  Psalter,"  Bd.  2,  Nuremberg,  1565,  p.  94. 

2  Sarcerius,  "  Etliche  Predigten,"  etc.,  Leipzig,  1551,  Bl.  C  2'. 

3  Strigel,  "  Ypomnemata  1,"  Lipsise,  1505,  p.  219. 

4  Sachse,  "  Acht  Trostpredigten,"  Leipzig,  1602,  Bl.  A  5'. 

5  Mathesius,  "  Aufzeichn.,"  p.  213  f.     On  the  Disputation  held  at 
Leipzig  by  Beyer,  the  ex-Augustinian,  see  vol.  i.,  p.  316. 

6  G.  Loesche,  "  Joh.  Mathesius,"  1,  Gotha,  1895,  p.  223. 

7  Mathesius,  "  Historien,"  p.  147'. 

8  "  Fest-Chronika,"  2  Tl.,  Leipzig,  1602,  Bl.  2'  (1  ed.,  1591). 


and  more  than  ever  before,  people,  whether  in  good  health  or  not, 
fall  into  mortal  fear  and  despair,  lose  their  minds  and  kill  them 
selves."1  In  1569,  within  three  weeks,  fourteen  suicides  occurred 
at  Nuremberg.2 — •"  You  will  readily  recall,"  Lucas  Osiander  said 
in  a  sermon  about  the  end  of  the  century,  "  how  in  the  years  gone 
by  many  otherwise  good  people  became  so  timorous,  faint 
hearted  and  full  of  despair  that  they  could  not  be  consoled  ;  and 
how  of  these  not  a  few  put  an  end  to  their  own  lives  ;  this  is  a 
sign  of  the  Last  Day."3 

Luther  himself  confirms  the  increase  in  the  number  of  suicides 
which  took  place  owing  to  troubles  of  conscience. 

In  a  sermon  of  1532  he  bemoans,  that  "  so  many  people  are  so 
disquieted  and  distressed  that  they  give  way  to  despair  "  ;  this 
was  chiefly  induced  by  the  "  spirits,"  for  there  "  have  been,  and 
still  are,  many  who  are  driven  by  the  devil  and  plagued  with 
temptations  and  despair  till  they  hang  themselves,  or  destroy 
themselves  in  some  other  way  out  of  very  fear."4  He  is  quite 
convinced  that  the  devil  "  drives  "  all  suicides  and  makes  them 
helpless  tools  of  his  plans  against  human  life. — It  was  to  this  idea 
that  the  Lutheran  preacher  Hamelmann  clung  when  he  wrote,  in 
1568,  that  many  trusted  "  that  those  who  had  been  overtaken 
and  destroyed  by  the  devil  would  not  be  lost  irretrievably."5 

Andreas  Celichius,  Superintendent  in  the  Mark  of  Branden 
burg,  was  of  opinion  that  such  suicides,  such  "  very  sudden  and 
heartrending  murders,"  "  gave  a  bad  name  to  the  Evangel  in  the 
world  "  ;  one  sees  and  hears  "  that  some  in  our  very  midst  are 
quite  unable  to  find  comfort  in  the  Evangelical  sanctuary.  .  .  . 
This  makes  men  distrustful  of  the  preaching  of  Jesus  Christ  and 
even  causes  it  to  be  hated."6 

Michael  Helding,  Bishop-auxiliary  of  Mayence,  found  a  special 
reason  for  the  increase  in  the  number  of  suicides  amongst  those 
who  had  broken  with  the  Church,  in  their  rejection  of  the 
Catholic  means  of  grace.  In  a  sermon  which  he  delivered  towards 
the  end  of  1547  at  the  Diet  of  Augsburg  he  pointed  out  that, 
ever  since  the  use  of  the  Sacraments  had  been  scorned,  people 
were  more  exposed  to  the  strength  of  the  evil  one  and  to  dis 
couragement.  "  When  has  the  devil  ever  driven  so  many  to 
desperation,  so  that  they  lose  all  hope  and  kill  themselves  ? 
Whose  fault  is  it  ?  Ah,  we  deprive  ourselves  of  God's  grace  and 
refuse  to  accept  the  Divine  strength  which  is  offered  us  in  the 
Holy  Sacraments."7 

1  G.  Th.  Strobel,  "  Neue  Beytrage  zur  Literatur,"   1,  Nuremberg, 
1790,  p.  97. 

2  Hondorf- Sturm,  "  Calendarium  Sanctorum,"  Leipzig,  1599,  p.  338. 

3  L.  Osiander,  "  Bauren-Postilla,"  4  Tl.,  Tubingen,  1599,  p.  188. 

4  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  182,  p.  365. 

6  Hocker-Hamelmann,  "  Der  Teufel  selbs,"  3  Tl.,  Ursel,  1568,  p.  130. 

6  Celichius  in  a  work  on  suicide  :   "  Niitzlicher  und  nothwendiger 
Bericht  von  den  Leuten,  so  sich  selbst  aus  Angst,  Verzweiffelung  oder 
andern  Ursachen    entleiben   und    hinrichten,"   Magdeburg,    1578,    Bl. 
A2,S  5,  R  5'. 

7  Helding,  "  Von  der  hailigisten  Messe,"  Ingolstadt,  1548,  p.  7, 

224          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

Among  the  Lutheran  preachers  the  expected  end  of  the 
world  was  made  to  play  a  part  and  to  explain  the  increase  of 
faint-heartedness  and  despair. 

Mathesius  says  in  his  Postils  :  "  Many  pine  away  and  lose 
hope  ;  there  is  no  more  joy  or  courage  left  among  the  people  ; 
therefore  let  us  look  for  the  end  of  the  world,  and  prepare,  and  be 
ready  at  any  moment  for  our  departure  home  !  "  "  For  the  end 
is  approaching  ;  heaven  and  earth  and  all  government  now  begin 
to  crack  and  break."1 

Luther's  example  proved  catching,  and  the  end  of  the 
world  became  a  favourite  topic  both  in  the  pulpit  and  in 
books,  one  on  which  the  preachers'  own  gloom  could  aptly 
find  vent.  The  end  of  all  was  thought  to  be  imminent. 
Such  forebodings  are  voiced,  for  instance,  in  the  following  : 
"  No  consolation  is  of  any  help  to  consciences  "  ;2  "  many 
pine  away  in  dejection  and  die  of  grief  "  ;3  "  in  these  latter 
days  the  wicked  one  by  his  tyranny  drives  men  into  fear 
and  fright  "  ;4  "  many  despair  for  very  dejection  and  sad 
ness  "  ;5  "  many  pious  hearts  wax  cowardly,  seeing  their 
sins  and  the  wickedness  of  the  world  "  ;6  "  the  people  hang 
their  heads  as  though  they  were  walking  corpses  and  live 
in  a  constant  dread  "  ;7  "  all  joy  is  dead  and  all  consola 
tion  from  God's  Word  has  become  as  weak  as  water  "  ;8 
the  number  of  those  "  possessed  of  the  devil  body  and  soul  " 
is  growing  beyond  all  measure.9 

1  "  Postilla  oder  Auslegung  dor  Sonntagsevangelien,"  Nuremberg, 
1565,  p.  14. 

2  Selnecker,  "  Trostliche  schone  Spriich  fur  die  engstigen  Gewissen," 
Leipzig,  1561,  Preface. 

3  Georg  Major   (a  Wittenberg  Professor),   "  Homilice  in  Evangelia 
dominicaUa,"     1,     Wittenbergse,     1562,     p.     38. — Johann     Pomarius, 
preacher    at    Magdeburg  :     "  People    are    growing    so    distressed    and 
afflicted  that  they  droop  and  languish,"  etc.,  the  Last  Day  is,  however, 
"  at  the  door."     "  Postilla,"  Bd.  1,  Magdeburg,  1587,  p.  6  f. 

4  Nikol.   Kramer,    "  Wiirtzgartlein   der   Seelen,"   Frankfurt   a.   M., 
1573,    Bl.   V.,    3'.      Still   more   emphatically   the   preacher   Sigismund 
Suevus  ("  Trewe  Warming  fur  der  leidigen  Verzweiffelung,"  Gorlitz, 
1572,  p.  A  3')  :    The  devil  raves  and  rages  in  these  latter  days  like  a 
mad  dog  and  tries  above  all  to  make  people  despair. 

6  Christoph  Ireiiseus,  preacher  at  Eisleben,  "  Prognosticon,"  1578, 
(s.l.),  Bl.  D  d  3. 

6  Joh.  Beltzius,  "  Vom  Jammer,"  etc.,  Bl.  B  3'. 

7  Ruprecht  Erythropilus,  preacher  at  Hanover,  "  Weckglock,"  etc., 
Frankfurt  a.  M.,  1595,  p.  181  f. 

8  Valerius  Herberger,  preacher  at  Fraustadt,  "  Herzpostilla,"  Bl.  1, 
Leipzig,  1614,  p.  16  ff. 

9  Andreas  Celichius,  "  Notwendige  Erinnerung,"  etc.,  Wittenberg, 
1595,  Bl.  A  3  ff.     He  enumerates  with  terror  thirty  possessed  persons 


Though  the  special  advantage  claimed  for  the  new 
Evangel  lay  in  the  sure  comfort  it  afforded  troubled  con 
sciences,  many  found  themselves  unable  to  arouse  within 
them  the  necessary  faith  in  the  forgiveness  of  their  sins. 
Luther's  own  experience,  viz.  that  "faith  won't  come,"1 
was  also  that  of  many  of  the  preachers  in  the  case  of  their 
own  uneasy  and  tortured  parishioners  ;  their  complaints  of 
the  fruitlessness  of  their  labours  sound  almost  like  an  echo 
of  some  of  Luther's  own  utterances. 

"  There  are  many  pious  souls  in  our  churches,"  says  Simon 
Pauli,  of  Rostock,  "  who  are  much  troubled  because  they  cannot 
really  believe  what  they  say  they  do,  viz.  that  God  will  be 
gracious  to  them  and  will  justify  and  save  them."2 

The  widespread  melancholy  existing  among  the  parishioners 
quite  as  much  and  sometimes  more  so  than  among  the  pastors, 
explains  the  quantity  of  consolatory  booklets  which  appeared  on 
the  market  during  the  second  half  of  the  16th  century,  many  of 
which  were  expressly  designed  to  check  the  progress  of  this 
morbid  melancholy.3  Selnecker's  work,  mentioned  above,  is  a 
specimen  of  this  sort  of  literature.  The  Hamburg  preacher, 
J.  Magdeburgius,  wrote  :  "  Never  has  there  been  such  need  of 
encouragement  as  at  this  time."4  The  Superintendent,  Andreas 
Celichius,  laments  that  people  "are  quite  unable  to  find  comfort 
in  the  sanctuary  of  the  Evangel,  but,  like  the  heathen  who 
knew  not  God,  are  becoming  melancholy  and  desperate,"  and 
this  too  at  a  time  when  "  God,  by  means  of  the  evangelical 
preaching,  is  daily  dispensing  abundantly  all  manner  of  right 
excellent  and  efficacious  consolation,  by  the  shovelful  and  not 
merely  by  the  spoonful." 5 — It  was,  however,  a  vastly  more  difficult 

in  Mecklenburg  alone,  among  whom,  however,  he  probably  includes 
many  who  were  simply  mad.  "  Here,  in  the  immediate  vicinity,"  he 
says,  "  three  preachers  have  lost  their  minds,  and  would  even  appear 
to  be  bodily  possessed."  J.  Moehsen  ("  Gesch,  der  Wissenschaften  in 
der  Mark  Brandenburg,"  Berlin,  1781,  p.  500)  rightly  remarked  : 
"  The  plentiful  writings  and  sermons  on  the  devil's  power,  .  .  .  on 
the  portents  of  the  Last  Judgment,  such  as  comets,  meteors,  bloody 
rain,  etc.,  cost  many  their  reason  during  the  latter  half  of  the  16th 

1  Cordatus,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  452  :   "  '  Articulus  fidei  '  won't  go  home, 
'  ideo  tot  accidunt  tristitice.''  " 

2  "  Extract  oder  Ausszug  axis  der  Postill,"  Magdeburg,  1584,  p.  16  f. 

3  See  N.  Paulus,  "  Die  Melancholie  im  16  Jahrh."  ("  Wiss.  Beilage 
zur  Germania,"   1897,  No.   18),  p.   137  ff.  ;    on  p.  140  he  refers  to  G. 
Draudius,   "  Bibl.  libr.  germ.,"  for  the  titles  of  many  such  works  of 
consolation.     For  the  above  description  we  have  made  use  of  this 
rich  article  by  Paulus  and  of  his  other  one  :    "  Der  Selbstmord  im  16 
Jahrh.,"  ibid.,  1896,  No.  1. 

4  "  Eyne  schone  Artzney,   dadurch  der  leidenden  Christen  Sorge 
und  Betriibnus  gelindert  werden,"  Liibeck,  1555,  p.  145. 

5  Op.  cit.,  Bl.  A  3',  R  5. 

IV. — Q 

226          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

matter  to  find  comfort  in  the  bare  "  Sola  Fides  "  than  it  had  been 
for  the  ancestors  of  these  Evangelicals  to  find  it  in  the  Church's 
way.  Thanks  to  their  co-operation,  it  was  given  to  them  to 
experience  the  vivifying  and  saving  strength  of  the  Sacraments 
and  of  the  Eucharistic  Sacrifice,  to  find  example  and  encourage 
ment  in  the  veneration  of  the  Saints  and  in  the  ritual,  to  be  led 
to  display  their  faith  by  the  performance  of  good  works  in  the 
hope  of  an  eternal  reward,  and  to  enjoy  in  all  the  guidance  and 
help  of  pastors  duly  called  and  ordained.  In  spite  of  all  the 
abuses  which  existed,  their  Catholic  forebears  had  never  been 
deprived  of  these  helps. 

Many  Protestants  were  driven  by  such  considerations  to  return 
to  the  Church.  Of  this  Nicholas  Amsdorf  complained.  Many, 
he  says,  "  have  fallen  away  from  Christ  to  Antichrist  in  conse 
quence  of  such  despair  and  doubts,"  and  the  uncertainty  in 
matters  of  faith  is  nourished  by  the  want  of  any  unity  in  teach 
ing,  so  that  the  people  "  do  not  know  whom  or  what  to  believe  "  j1 
this  was  also  one  of  the  reasons  alleged  by  Simon  Pauli  why 
"  many  in  the  Netherlands  and  in  Austria  are  now  relapsing  into 

"  We  find  numerous  instances  in  our  day,"  Laurence  Albcrtus 
said  in  1574,  "  of  how,  in  many  places  where  Catholics  and 
sectarians  live  together,  no  one  was  able  to  help  a  poor,  deluded 
sectarian  in  spiritual  or  temporal  distress,  save  the  Catholic 
Christians,  and  especially  their  priests  ;  such  persons  who  have 
been  helped  admit  that  they  first  found  real  comfort  among  the 
Catholics,  and  now  refuse  to  be  disobedient  to  the  Church  any 
longer."  Albertus  wrote  a  "  Defence  "  of  such  converts.3 

Johann  Schlaginhaufen,  Luther's  pupil,  with  the  statements 
he  makes  concerning  his  own  sad  interior  experiences,  brings  us 
back  to  his  master. 4  Schlaginhaufen  himself,  even  more  than  the 
rest,  fell  a  prey  to  sadness,  fear  and  thoughts  of  despair  on 
account  of  his  sins.  Luther,  to  whom  he  freely  confided  this, 
told  him  it  was  "  false  that  God  hated  sinners,  otherwise  He 
would  not  have  sent  His  Son  "  ;  God  hated  only  the  self-righteous 
"  who  didn't  want  to  be  sinners."  If  Satan  had  not  tried  and 
persecuted  me  so  much,  "  I  should  not  now  be  so  hostile  to  him." 
Schlaginhaufen,  however,  was  unable  to  convince  himself  so 
readily  that  all  his  trouble  came  from  the  devil  and  not  from  his 
conscience.  He  said  to  Luther  :  "  Doctor,  I  can't  believe  that  it 
is  only  the  devil  who  causes  sadness,  for  the  Law  [the  conscious 
ness  of  having  infringed  it]  makes  the  conscience  sad  ;  but  the  Law 
is  good,  for  it  comes  from  God,  consequently  neither  is  the 
sadness  from  Satan."  Luther  was  only  able  to  give  an  evasive 
answer  and  fell  back  on  the  proximity  of  the  Last  Day  as  a 

1  "  Fiinff  fiirnemliche  Zeichen  .  .  .  vor  dem  jiingstcn  Tag,"  Jena, 
1554,  Bl.  B  4'. 

2  Op.  cit.,  Magdeburg,  1584,  p.  733. 

3  "  Verthadigung  deren,  so   sich  diser    Zeit  ...  in  den  Frid    der 
romischen  Kirchen  begeben,"  Dillingen,  1574,  p.  72  f. 

*  Schlaginhaufen,  "  Aufzeichn.,"  pp.  9,  76,  88. 


source  of  consolation  :  "In  short,  why  we  are  so  plagued,  vexed 
and  troubled  is  due  to  the  Last  Day.  .  .  .  The  devil  feels  his 
kingdom  is  coming  to  an  end,  hence  the  fuss  he  makes.  There 
fore,  my  dear  Turbicida  [i.e.  Schlaginhaufen],  be  comforted,  hold 
fast  to  the  Word  of  God,  let  us  pray."  Such  words,  however,  did 
not  suffice  to  calm  the  troubled  man,  who  only  became  ever  more 
dejected  ;  his  inference  appeared  to  him  only  too  well  founded  : 
"  The  Law  with  its  obligations  and  its  terrifying  menaces  is  just 
as  much  God's  as  the  Gospel." 

"  How  doleful  you  look,"  Luther  said  to  him  some  weeks  later. 
"  I  replied,"  so  Schlaginhaufen  relates  :  "  '  Ah,  dear  Doctor,  I 
was  brooding  ;  my  thoughts  worry  me  and  yet  I  can  do  nothing. 
I  am  unable  to  distinguish  between  the  Law  and  the  Gospel.'  The 
Doctor  replied  :  '  Yes,  dear  Master  Hans,  if  you  could  do  that 
then  you  would  be  indeed  a  Doctor  yourself,'  saying  which  he 
stood  up  and  doffed  his  cap.  .  .  .  '  Paul  and  I  have  never  been 
able  to  get  so  far  .  .  .  the  best  thing  to  do  is  to  hold  fast  to  the 
man  Who  is  called  Christ.'  '  In  answer  to  a  new  objection 
Luther  referred  the  young  man  to  the  secret  counsels  of  God,  for, 
according  to  him,  there  was  a  hidden  God  Who  had  not  revealed 
Himself  and  of  Whom  men  "  were  unable  to  know  what  He 
secretly  planned,"1  and  a  revealed  God  Who  indeed  speaks  of  a 
Divine  Will  that  all  should  be  saved  ;  how,  however,  this  was  to 
afford  any  consolation  it  is  not  easy  to  see.1  On  other  occasions 
Luther  simply  ordered  Schlaginhaufen  to  rely  on  his  authority  ; 
God  Himself  was  speaking  through  him  words  of  command 
and  consolation.  "  You  are  to  believe  without  doubting  what 
God  Himself  has  spoken  to  you,  for  I  have  God's  authority  and 
commission  to  speak  to  and  to  comfort  you."2 

1  Luther  to  Count  Albert  of  Mansfeld,  Dec.  8,  1542,  "  Briefe,"  5, 
p.  514.     Cp.  vol.  ii.,  pp.  290  and  268  f. 

2  Schlaginhaufen,  "  Aufzeichn.,"  p.  21. 



1.  The  University  Professor,  the  Preacher,  the  Pastor 

Relations  with  the  Wittenberg  Students. 

AMONG  the  pleasing  traits  in  Luther's  picture  a  prominent 
one  is  the  care  he  evinced  for  the  students  at  Wittenberg. 

The  disagreeable  impression  caused  by  the  decline  of  the 
University  town  is  to  some  extent  mitigated  by  the  efforts 
Luther  made  to  check  the  corruption  amongst  the  scholars  of 
the  University.  He  saw  that  they  were  supervised,  so  far 
as  academic  freedom  permitted,  and  never  hesitated  to 
blame  their  excesses  from  the  pulpit.  At  the  same  time,  in 
spite  of  the  growing  multiplicity  of  his  labours  and  cares,  he 
showed  himself  a  helpful  father  to  them  even  in  temporal 
matters,  for  instance,  Avhen  he  inveighed  in  a  sermon  against 
their  exploitation  at  the  hands  of  burghers  and  peasants  : 
They  were  being  sucked  dry  and  could  scarcely  be  treated 
worse  ;  this  he  had  heard  from  all  he  knew.1 

The  respect  he  enjoyed  and  the  example  of  his  own  simple 
life  lent  emphasis  to  his  moral  exhortations.  His  eloquent 
lectures  were  eagerly  listened  to  ;  his  delivery  was  vivid 
and  impressive.  People  knew  that  he  did  not  lecture  for 
the  sake  of  money  and,  even  at  the  height  of  his  fame, 
they  gladly  pointed  to  the  unassuming  life  he  led  at 
home.  He  did  not  expect  any  marks  of  respect  from  the 
students,  greatly  as  they,  and  not  only  those  of  the  theo 
logical  Faculty,  esteemed  him.  Melanchthon  had  intro 
duced  the  custom  of  making  the  students  stand  when  Luther 
entered  the  class-room  ;  Luther,  however,  was  not  at  all 
pleased  with  this  innovation  and  said  petulently  :  "  Doxa, 
doxa  est  magna  noxa  ;  who  runs  after  glory  never  gets  it."2 

J  l  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  27,  p.  418  f.,  in  the  sermons  of  1528,  recently 

2  Mathesius,  "  Historien,"  p.  154'  ;  Kroker,  "  Mathesius'  Tisch- 
reden,"  Einleitung,  p.  70. 


Oldecop,  the  Catholic  chronicler  and  Luther's  former 
pupil,  who,  as  a  youth  and  before  the  apostasy,  had  listened 
to  him  at  Wittenberg,  remembered  in  his  old  age  how 
Luther,  without  setting  himself  in  opposition  to  their 
youthful  jollifications  had  known  how  to  restrain  them  ; 
just  as  he  "  reproved  sin  fearlessly  from  the  pulpit,"1  so  he 
earnestly  sought  to  banish  temptation  from  the  pleasures 
of  the  students. 

We  may  here  recall,  that,  as  early  as  1520,  Luther  had 
urged  that  all  bordels  should  be  done  away  with,  those 
"  public,  heathenish  haunts  of  sin,"  as  he  termed  them,  at 
the  same  time  using  their  existence  as  a  weapon  against  the 
Catholic  past.2  The  fact  that  many  such  houses  were 
closed  down  at  that  time  was,  however,  to  some  extent  due 
to  fear  of  the  prevalent  "  French  disease." 

When,  in  his  old  age,  in  1543,  the  arrival  of  certain  light 
women  threatened  new  danger  to  the  morals  of  the  Witten 
berg  students,  already  exposed  to  the  ordinary  temptations 
of  the  town,  Luther  decided  to  interfere  and  make  a  public 
onslaught  at  the  University.  This  attack  supplies  us  with 
a  striking  example  of  his  forcefulness,  whilst  also  showing 
us  what  curious  ideas  and  expressions  he  was  wont  to  inter 
mingle  with  his  well-meant  admonitions. 

"  The  devil,"  so  he  begins,  "  has,  by  means  of  the  gainsayers 
of  our  faith  and  our  chief  foes  [presumably  the  Catholics],  sent 
here  certain  prostitutes  to  seduce  and  ruin  our  young  men. 
Hence  I,  as  an  old  and  tried  preacher,  would  paternally  implore 
you,  my  dear  children,  to  believe  that  the  Wicked  One  has  sent 
these  prostitutes  hither,  who  are  itchy,  shabby,  stinking  and 
infected  with  the  French  disease  as,  alas,  experience  daily  proves. 
Let  one  good  comrade  warn  the  other,  for  one  such  infected 
strumpet  can  ruin  10,  20,  30,  or  even  100  sons  of  good  parents 
and  is  therefore  to  be  reckoned  a  murderess  and  much  worse 
than  a  poisoner.  Let  one  help  the  other  in  this  poisonous 
mess,  with  faithful  advice  and  warning,  as  each  one  would  himself 
wish  to  be  done  by  !  " 

He  then  threatens  them  with  the  penalties  of  the  Ruler,  which 
dissolute  students  had  to  fear,  "  in  order  that  they  may  take 
themselves  off,  and  the  sooner  the  better  "  ;  "  here  [at  Witten 
berg]  there  is  a  Christian  Church  and  University  to  which  people 
resort  to  learn  the  Word  of  God,  virtue  and  discipline.  Whoever 
wants  to  drab  had  better  go  elsewhere." 

Were  he  able,  he  would  have  such  women  "  bled  and  broken 

1  Oldecop,  "  Chronik,"  ed.  Euling,  p.  40. 

2  Kftstlin-Kawerau,  2,  pp.  687,  572,  n. 

230         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

on  the  wheel."  Young  people  ought,  however,  to  resist  con 
cupiscence  and  fight  against  "  their  heat  "  ;  it  was  not  to  no 
purpose  that  the  Holy  Ghost  had  said  :  "Go  not  after  thy 
lusts  "  (Eccl.  xviii.  30).  He  concludes  :  "  Pray  God  He  may 
send  you  a  pious  child  [in  marriage],  there  will  in  any  case  be 
trouble  enough."1 

Some  polemics  have  characterised  such  exhortations  of 
Luther's  as  mere  "  hypocrisy."  Whoever  knows  his  Luther,  knows, 
however,  how  unfounded  is  this  charge.  Nor  was  there  any 
hypocrisy  about  the  other  very  urgent  exhortation  which  Luther 
caused  to  be  read  from  the  pulpit  at  Wittenberg  in  1542,  when 
himself  unable  to  preach,  and  which  is  addressed  to  both  burghers 
and  students.  He  there  implores  "  the  town  and  the  University 
for  God's  sake  not  to  allow  it  to  be  said  of  them,  that,  after 
having  heard  God's  Word  so  abundantly  and  for  so  long,  they 
had  grown  worse  instead  of  better."  "  Ah,  brother  Studium,"  he 
says,  "  spare  me  and  let  it  not  come  to  this  that  I  be  obliged  like 
Polycarp  to  exclaim,  '  O  my  God,  why  hast  Thou  let  me  live  to 
see  this?''  He  points  to  his  "grizzly  head"  which  at  least 
should  inspire  respect.2 

The  Preacher  and  Catechist. 

As  a  preacher  Luther  was  hard-working,  nay,  indefatig 
able  ;  in  this  department  his  readiness  of  speech,  his 
familiarity  with  Holy  Scripture  and  above  all  his  popular 
ways  stood  him  in  good  stead.  At  first  he  preached  in  the 
church  attached  to  the  monastery  ;  later  on  his  sermons 
were  frequently  preached  in  the  parish  church,  and,  so  long 
as  his  health  stood  the  strain,  he  sometimes  even  delivered 
several  sermons  a  day.3  Even  when  not  feeling  well  he  took 
advantage  of  every  opportunity  to  mount  the  pulpit.  In 
1528  he  took  over  the  parochial  sermons  during  Bugen- 
hagen's  absence  from  Wittenberg,4  in  spite  of  being  already 
overworked  and  ill  in  body. 

All  were  loud  in  their  praise  of  the  power  and  vigour  of 
his  style.  Mathesius  in  his  "  Historien  "  records  a  remark 
to  this  effect  of  Melanchthon's.5  Luther  frequently  laid 
down,  after  his  own  fashion,  the  rules  which  should  guide 
those  who  preach  to  the  little  ones  and  the  poor  in  spirit  : 
"  Cursed  and  anathema  be  all  preachers  who  treat  of  high, 

1  May  13,  1543,  "  Briefe,"  5  (De  Wette  and  Seidemann),  p.  560. 

2  1542,  possibly  Feb.  or  Nov.    "  Briefe,"  6,  p.  302.    Cp.  the  Rector's 
exhortation  to   the  students  on  Feb.    18,    1542,   "  Corp.   ref.,"   4,    p. 
780  seq. 

"  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  3,  p.  178. 
4  Published  from  notes  taken  at  the  time. 
6   "  Historien,"  p.  216. 

THE   POPULAR   PREACHER         231 

difficult  and  subtle  matters  in  the  churches,  put  them  to  the 
people  and  preach  on  them,  seeking  their  own  glory  or  to 
please  one  or  two  ambitious  members  of  the  congregation. 
When  I  preach  here  I  make  myself  as  small  as  possible,  nor 
do  I  look  at  the  Doctors  and  Masters,  of  whom  perhaps 
forty  may  be  present,  but  at  the  throng  of  young  people, 
children  and  common  folk,  from  a  hundred  to  a  thousand 
strong  ;  it  is  to  them  that  I  preach,  of  them  that  I 
think,  for  it  is  they  who  stand  in  need."1  And  elsewhere  : 
"  Like  a  mother  who  quiets  her  babe,  dandles  it  and  plays 
with  it,  but  who  must  give  it  milk  from  her  breast,  and  on 
no  account  wine  or  Malmsey,  so  preachers  must  do  the  same  ; 
they  ought  so  to  preach  in  all  simplicity  that  even  the 
simple-minded  may  hear,  grasp  and  retain  their  words. 
But  when  they  come  to  me,  to  Master  Philip,  to  Dr.  Pommer, 
etc.,  then  they  may  show  off  their  learning — and  get  a  good 
drubbing  and  be  put  to  shame."  But  when  they  parade 
their  learning  in  the  pulpit  this  is  merely  done  "  to  impose 
on  and  earn  the  praise  of  the  poor,  simple  lay-folk.  Ah, 
they  say,  that  is  a  great  scholar  and  a  fine  speaker,  though, 
probably,  they  neither  understood  nor  learnt  anything."2 

"  Nor  should  a  preacher  consider  individual  members  of 
his  congregation  and  speak  to  them  words  of  comfort  or 
reproof  ;  what  he  must  seek  to  benefit  is  the  whole  congrega 
tion.  St.  Paul  teaches  this  important  doctrine  [2  Cor.  ii.  17] : 
'  We  speak  with  sincerity  in  Christ  as  from  God  and  before 
God.'  God,  Christ  and  the  angels  are  our  hearers,  and  if  we 
please  them  that  is  enough.  Let  us  not  trouble  ourselves 
about  the  world  and  about  private  persons  !  We  will  not 
speak  in  order  to  please  any  man  nor  allow  our  mouth  to  be 
made  the  '  Arschloch  '  of  another.  But  when  we  have 
certain  persons  up  before  us,  then  we  may  reprove  them 
privately  and  without  any  rancour."3 

As  a  preacher  he  was  able  often  enough  to  tell  the  various 
classes  quite  frankly  what  he  found  to  censure  in  them. 
At  the  Court,  for  instance,  he  could,  when  occasion  arose, 
reprove  the  nobles  for  their  drunkenness,  and  that  in 
language  not  of  the  choicest.4  He  was  not  the  man  to  wear 

1  He  says  this  to  Pastor  Bernard  of  Dolen,  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  59, 
p.  272  f.     Cp.  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  140. 
•  "  Werke,"  ibid.,  p.  273. 

3  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  389 

4  See  above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  309. 

232          LUTHER  THE   REFORMER 

kid  gloves,  or,  as  an  old  German  proverb  he  himself  quoted 
said,  to  let  a  spider  spin  its  web  over  his  mouth.  A  saying 
attributed  to  him  characterises  him  very  well,  save  perhaps 
in  its  latter  end  :  Come  up  bravely,  speak  out  boldly,  leave 
off  speedily.1  "  I  have  warned  you  often  enough,"  so  we 
read  in  the  notes  of  a  Wittenberg  sermon  of  Sep.  24,  1531,2 
"  to  flee  fornication,  and  yet  I  see  that  it  is  again  on  the 
increase.  It  is  getting  so  bad  that  I  shall  be  obliged  to  say  : 
Bistu  do  zurissen,  sso  lop  dich  der  Teuffl."3  The  preacher 
then  turns  to  the  older  hearers,  begging  them  to  use  their 
influence  with  the  younger  generation,  to  prevail  on  them 
to  abstain  from  this  vice. 

As  to  his  subject-matter,  he  was  fond  of  urging  Biblical 
texts  and  quotations,  wherein  he  displayed  great  skill  and 
dexterity.  In  general,  however,  his  attacks  on  Popery  are 
always  much  the  same  ;  he  dwells  with  tiresome  monotony 
on  the  holiness-by-works  and  the  moral  depravity  of  the 
Papists.  Though  his  theory  of  Justification  may  have 
proved  to  him  a  never-failing  source  of  delight,  yet  his 
hearers  were  inclined  to  grow  weary  of  it.  He  himself  says 
once  :  "  When  we  preach  the  '  articulum  justificationis  '  the 
people  sleep  or  cough  "  ;  and  before  this  :  "  No  one  in  the 
people's  opinion  is  eloquent  if  he  speaks  on  justification  ; 
then  they  simply  close  their  ears."  Had  it  been  a  question 
of  retailing  stories,  examples  and  allegories  he  could  have 
been  as  proficient  as  any  man.4 

Mathesius  has  incorporated  in  his  work  some  of  Luther's 
directions  on  preaching  Avhich  might  prove  a  good  guide  to 
any  pulpit  orator  desirous  of  being  of  practical  service  to 
his  hearers.5  Some  of  these  directions  and  hints  have 
recently  appeared  in  their  vigorous  original  in  the  Table-Talk 
edited  by  Kroker. 

It  was  his  wish  that  religious  addresses  in  the  shape  of 
simple,  hearty  instructions  on  the  Epistles  and  Gospels 
should  be  given  weekly  by  every  father  to  his  family.6  He 
himself,  in  his  private  capacity,  set  the  example  as  early 

1  Cp.  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  184:  "  Prcedicator  ascendat 
suggestum,  aperiat  os  et  desinat,"  etc.  See,  ibid.,  No.  316a,  also  pp.  139 
and  196.  2  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  34,  2,  p.  214. 

"  Luthers  Sprichwortersammlung,"  ed.  E.  Thiele,  Weimar,   1900, 
No.  483.  4   "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  3,  p.  113  seq. 

5  "  Historien,"  pp.  144,  148,  151,  etc. 

6  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  21,  p.  31. 


as  1532  by  holding  forth  in  his  own  home  on  Sundays,  when 
unable  to  preach  in  the  church,  before  his  assembled  house 
hold  and  other  guests.  This  he  did,  so  he  said,  from  a 
sense  of  duty  towards  his  family,  because  it  was  as  necessary 
to  check  neglect  of  the  Divine  Word  in  the  home  as  in  the 
Church  at  large.1 

He  also  himself  catechised  the  children  at  home,  in  order, 
as  he  declared,  to  fulfil  the  duties  of  a  Christian  father  ; 
on  rising  in  the  morning  he  was  also  in  the  habit  of  reciting 
the  "  Ten  Commandments,  the  Creed,  the  Our  Father  and 
some  Psalm  as  well  "  with  the  children. 

He  even  expressed  the  opinion  that  catechetical  instruc 
tion  in  church  was  of  little  use  to  children,  but  that  in  the 
home  it  was  more  successful  and  was  therefore  not  to  be 
omitted,  however  much  trouble  it  might  give.  When, 
however,  he  adds,  that  the  Papists  had  neglected  such  home 
teaching  and  had  sacrificed  the  flock  of  Christ,2  he  is  quite 
wrong.  The  fact  is,  that,  before  his  day,  it  was  left  far  too 
much  to  the  family  to  give  religious  instruction  to  the 
children,  there  being  as  yet  no  properly  organised  Catechism 
in  schools  and  churches.  It  was  only  the  opposition  aroused 
among  Catholics  by  the  religious  changes  that  led  to  religious 
teaching  becoming  more  widespread  in  the  Catholic  schools, 
and  to  a  catechetical  system  being  organised  ;  a  fuller 
religious  education  then  served  to  check  the  falling  away.3 
How  highly,  in  spite  of  such  apparent  depreciation,  he  valued 
the  ministerial  teaching  of  the  Catechism  we  learn  from 
some  words  recorded  by  Mathesius  :  "  If  I  had  to  establish 
order,  I  should  see  that  no  preacher  was  nominated  who 
had  not  previously  taught  the  '  bonce  artes  '  and  the  Cate 
chism  in  the  schools  for  from  one  to  three  years.  Schools 
are  also  temples  of  God,  hence  the  olden  prophets  were  at  once 
pastors  and  schoolmasters."4  "  There  is  no  better  way,"  he 
writes,  "  of  keeping  people  devout  and  faithful  to  the 
Church  than  by  the  Catechism."5 

At  Wittenberg  an  arrangement  existed,  at  any  rate  as 

1  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  265. 

2  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  82. 

3  The  lack  of  religious  instruction  in  the  schools  is  confirmed  by 
Falk,    "  Die   pfarramtlichen  Aufzeichnungen   des  Florentius  Diel  zu 
Mainz  (1491-1518),"  1904,  p.  17. 

4  "  Historien,"  12  Predigt. 

5  To  Margrave  George  of  Brandenburg,  Sep.   14,  1531,  "  Werke," 
Erl.  ed.,  54,  p.  253  ("  Briefwechsel,"  9,  p.  103). 

234         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

early  as  1528,1  by  which,  every  quarter,  certain  days  were 
set  apart  for  special  sermons  on  the  articles  of  the  Cate 
chism.2  The  Larger  and  the  Smaller  Catechism  published 
by  Luther  (see  vol.  v.,  xxxiv.,  2)  were  intended  to  form  the 
basis  of  the  verbal  teaching  everywhere.  The  three  courses 
of  sermons  preached  by  Luther  at  Wittenberg  in  May,  Sep. 
and  Nov.,  1528,  and  since  edited  by  George  Buchwald,  were 
arranged  to  suit  the  contents  of  the  Greater  Catechism  and 
to  some  extent  served  Luther  as  a  preparation  for  this 
publication.  Luther,  in  the  first  instance,  brought  out  the 
Smaller  Catechism,  as  we  see  from  certain  letters  given  by 
Buchwald,  not  in  book  form,  but,  agreeably  with  an  earlier 
ecclesiastical  practice,  on  separate  sheets  in  the  shape  of 
tablets  to  hang  upon  the  walls  ;  hence  what  he  said  on 
Dec.  18,  1537,  of  his  being  the  author  of  the  Catechism,  the 
"  tabula?  "  and  the  Confession  of  Augsburg.3 

He  displayed  great  talent  and  dexterity  in  choosing  the 
language  best  suited  to  his  subject.  We  hear  him  denounc 
ing  with  fire  and  power  the  vice  of  usury  which  was  on  the 
increase.4  He  knows  how  to  portray  the  past  and  future 
judgments  of  God  in  such  colours  as  to  arouse  the  luke 
warm.  When  treating  of  the  different  professions  and  ways 
of  ordinary  life  he  is  in  his  own  element  and  exhibits  a  rare 
gift  of  observation.  On  the  virtues  of  the  home,  the  educa 
tion  of  children,  obedience  towards  superiors,  patience  in 
bearing  crosses  and  any  similar  ethical  topics  which  pre 
sented  themselves  to  him,  his  language  is  as  a  rule 
sympathetic,  touching  and  impressive  ;  in  three  wedding 
sermons  which  we  have  of  him  he  speaks  in  fine  and  moving 
words  on  love  and  fidelity  in  the  married  state.5 

In  addition  to  his  printed  sermons,  which  were  polished 
and  amended  for  the  press  and  from  which  we  have  already 
given  many  quotations  on  all  sorts  of  subjects,  the  hasty, 
abbreviated  notes  of  his  sermons,  made  by  zealous  pupils, 
give  us  an  insight  into  a  series  of  addresses  full  of  originality, 

1  See  vol.  v.,  xxxiv.,  2. 

2  Cp.  O.  Clemen,  "  Zeitschrift  fur  KG.,"  1909,  p.  382. 

3  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  352.     Agricola  had  excused  himself 
by  saying  he  had  not  attacked  Luther  but  Cruciger  and  Rorer.    Luther 
replied  :     "  Catechismus,   tabulae,   confcssio   Augustana,   etc.,   mca,   non 
Crucigeri  nee  Rcereri  sunt." 

4  See  vol.  vi.,  xxxv.,  6,  on  his  attitude  to  the  taking  of  interest. 

5  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  182,  pp.  89  ff.,  105  ff. ;  192,  p.  243  ff.    Cp.  above, 
p.  142. 

ON  THE   BLESSED   VIRGIN         235 

outspokenness  and  striking  thoughts.  Indeed  these  notes, 
which  are  becoming  better  known  at  the  present  day, 
frequently  render  the  sermons  in  all  their  primitive  simplicity 
far  better  than  do  the  more  carefully  arranged  printed 

Luther,  in  1524,  according  to  one  of  these  sets  of  notes,  spoke 
on  Good  Works  in  the  following  style  :  "  The  Word  is  given  in 
order  that  you  may  awaken  !  It  is  meant  to  spur  you  on  to  do 
what  is  good,  not  that  you  should  lull  yourself  in  security.  When 
fire  and  wood  [come  together  there  ensues  a  fire  ;  so  you.  in  like 
manner,  must  be  inflamed].  If,  however,  the  effect  of  the  sermon 
is,  that  you  do  not  act  towards  your  brother  as  Christ  does 
towards  you,  that  is  a  bad  sign,  not,  indeed,  that  you  must 
become  a  castaway,  but  that  you  may  go  so  far  as  one  day  to 
deny  the  Word."  "  The  devil  knows  that  sin  does  not  harm  you, 
but  his  aim  is  to  tear  Christ  out  of  your  heart,  to  make  you  self- 
confident  and  to  rob  you  of  the  Word.  Hence  beware  of  being 
idle  under  the  influence  of  Grace.  Christ  is  seen  with  you  when 
you  take  refuge  in  Him,  whether  you  be  in  sin  or  at  the  hour  of 
death,"  etc.  "  This  is  preached  to  you  daily,  but  we  produce  no 
effect.  Christ  has  bones  and  flesh,  strength  and  weakness.  Let 
each  one  see  to  it  that  above  all  he  possess  the  faith  .  .  .  the 
Gospel  is  preached  everywhere,  but  few  indeed  understand  it. 
Christ  bore  with  His  followers.  In  the  same  way  must  we  behave 
towards  the  weak.  And  the  day  will  come  when  at  last  they 
will  understand,  like  the  disciples.  But  that  will  never  be  unless 
persecution  comes."1 

Excerpts  from  Luther's  Sermons  on  Our  Lady. 
In  a  sermon  of  1524  on  the  Feast  of  the  Visitation,  taken  down 
in  Latin  by  the  same  reporter  and  recently  published,  Luther 
not  only  voices  the  olden  view  concerning  the  virtues  and 
privileges  of  the  Blessed  Virgin  but  also,  incidentally,  supplies  us 
with  a  sample  of  his  candour  in  speaking  of  the  faults  of  his 
hearers  :  "  You  are  surprised  that  now  I  preach  here  so  seldom, 
I,  on  the  other  hand,  ana  surprised  that  you  do  not  amend.  There 
may  possibly  be  a  few  to  whom  the  preaching  is  of  some  avail ; 
but  the  more  I  preach,  the  more  ungodliness  increases.  It  is  not 
my  fault,  for  I  know  that  I  have  told  you  all  what  God  gave  me 
[to  speak].  I  am  not  responsible  and  my  conscience  is  at  peace. 
I  have  forced  you  to  nothing.  We  have  introduced  two  collec 
tions.  If  they  are  not  to  your  taste,  do  away  with  them  again. 
We  shall  not  force  you  to  give  even  a  single  penny."2 — He  then 
deals  with  the  Gospel  of  the  Feast  which  records  Mary's  visit  to 
Elizabeth,  and  the  canticle  of  praise  with  which  she  greeted  her 
cousin.  He  draws  apt  lessons  from  it  and  praises  the  virtues  and 
the  dignity  of  the  Blessed  Virgin  in  a  way  that  does  him  honour  : 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  15,  p.  437. 

2  Ibid.,  p.  641  ff.,  "  Collections  "  is  our  amendment  for  "  Lections." 

236         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

"  First  of  all  you  see  how  Mary's  faith  finds  expression  in  a  work 
of  charity.  Her  faith  was  not  idle  but  was  proved  real  by  her 
acting  as  a  mere  maid,  seeking  out  Elizabeth  and  serving  her. 
Her  faith  was  immense,  as  we  also  learn  from  other  Gospel- 
readings.  That  is  why  Elizabeth  said  to  her  :  '  Blessed  art  thou 
that  hast  believed.'  .  .  .  This  is  a  true  work  of  faith  when 
impelled  thereby  we  abase  ourselves  and  serve  others.  We,  too, 
hear  all  this,  but  the  works  are  not  forthcoming.  .  .  .  Yet  where 
there  is  real  faith,  works  are  never  absent." 

"  When  Mary  was  magnified  by  Elizabeth  with  words  of  praise, 
it  was  as  though  she  did  not  hear  them,  for  she  paid  no  heed 
to  them.  Every  other  woman  would  have  succumbed  to  the 
temptation  of  vainglory,  but  she  gives  praise  to  Him  to  Whom 
alone  praise  is  due.  From  this  example  all  Christians,  but  par 
ticularly  all  preachers,  ought  to  learn.  You  know  that  God 
preserves  some  preachers  in  a  state  of  grace,  but  others  He 
permits  to  fall.  .  .  .  God  must  preserve  them  like  Mary  so  that 
they  do  not  grow  proud.  When  God  bestows  His  gifts  upon  us 
it  is  hard  not  to  become  presumptuous  and  self-confident.  If,  for 
instance,  I  am  well  acquainted  with  Scripture,  people  will  praise 
me  on  this  account,  and  when  I  am  praised,  I,  as  a  carnal  man, 
am  exposed  to  the  fire  ;  when  on  the  contrary  I  am  despised,  etc. 
[i.e.  this  is  helpful  for  my  salvation].  .  .  .  Mary  acted  as  though 
she  did  not  hear  it,  and  never  even  thanked  Elizabeth  for  her 

Mary  said,  so  he  continues,  "  My  soul  doth  magnify  the  Lord, 
not  myself  ;  I  am  a  mere  creature  of  God  ;  He  might  have  set 
another  in  my  place  ;  I  magnify  Him  Who  has  made  me  a 
Mother."  In  this  way  Mary  teaches  us  the  right  use  of  the  gifts 
bestowed  by  God,  for  she  rejoiced  only  in  God.  On  the  other 
hand,  any  woman  who  is  even  passably  pretty  becomes  vain  of 
herself,  and  any  man  who  has  riches,  boasts  of  his  possessions. 
Mary  is  merely  proud  that  God,  as  she  says,  has  regarded  her 
humility.  This  is  the  praise  which  we  too  must  pay  her.  We 
ought  to  extol  her  because  she  was  chosen  by  the  Divine  Majesty 
to  be  the  Mother  of  His  Son.  That,  she  says,  will  be  proclaimed 
to  the  end  of  the  world  ("  all  generations  shall  call  me  blessed  "), 
not  on  her  own  account,  but  because  God  has  done  this.  Concern 
ing  her  own  good  works  and  her  virginity  she  was  silent  and  simply 
said  :  "  He  has  done  great  things  in  me."  In  the  same  way  we 
ought  to  be  nothing  in  our  own  eyes  and  before  the  world,  but 
to  rejoice  simply  because  God  has  looked  down  on  us,  confessing 
that  all  we  have  comes  from  Him.  In  this  spirit  Mary  counted 
up  great  gifts  ;  though  she  could  have  said  :  All  that  you  have 
just  told  me  is  true.  "  Ah,  hers  was  a  fine  spirit ;  and  her 
example  will  assuredly  endure."  "  The  whole  world  will  never 
attain  to  it,  for  the  soul  that  is  not  exalted  by  God's  gifts  and 
depressed  by  poverty  is  indeed  hard  to  find."  By  her  words,  so 
the  speaker  continues,  Mary  condemned  the  world,  raised  her 
self  above  it  and  cast  it  aside  ;  her  language  was  not  human,  but 
came  to  her  from  God. 

ON   THE   BLESSED   VIRGIN          237 

Though  such  praise  of  Mary — from  which  at  a  later  date 
Luther  desisted — may  be  placed  to  his  credit,  yet  it  must  be 
pointed  out,  that  even  the  above  discourse  is  disfigured  by  bitter 
and  unwarrantable  attacks  on  Catholic  doctrine  and  practice. 
He  even  speaks  as  though  the  veneration  of  Mary  did  not  rest  on 
the  principles  we  have  just  heard  him  expound,  viz.  on  the 
dignity  bestowed  by  God  on  Mary  as  the  Mother  of  God,  and  on 
the  virtues  with  which  she  was  endowed  from  on  high,  such  as 
faith  and  humility.  The  Catholic  Church,  so  Luther  complains 
quite  unjustly  and  falsely,  had  made  of  Mary  a  goddess  ("  fecimus 
earn  Deam  ")  and  had  given  her  honour  and  praise  without 
referring  it  to  God.1 

1  Luther  must  have  known  that  in  Catholic  worship  the  Divine  Son 
is  more  honoured  by  the  veneration  of  Mary  than  she  herself.  That 
adoration  was  paid  to  God  alone  and  not  to  Mary  he  could  see  from 
the  text  of  the  prayers  of  the  ancient  Church.  Luther,  for  instance, 
was  acquainted  with  the  Invitatories  of  the  Office  for  the  Feasts  of 
Mary's  Nativity  and  Assumption,  the  first  of  which  commences  with 
the  words  :  "  Let  us  celebrate  the  birth  of  the  Virgin  Mary,"  and  then 
at  once  adds  :  "  Let  us  adore  her  Son  Christ  our  Lord  "  ;  while  the 
second  sets  Our  Lord  in  the  first  place  and  says  :  "  Come,  let  us  adore 
the  King  of  Kings  Whose  Virgin  Mother  was  to-day  assumed  into 
Heaven."  Thus  in  the  Liturgy  which  he  himself  had  celebrated,  the 
leading  thought,  that  Christ  was  honoured  in  Mary,  ran  through  the 
celebration  of  all  her  Feasts,  from  that  of  her  entrance  into  this  life  to 
that  of  her  exit.  The  Hymns  to  the  Mother  of  God  in  Luther's  day 
concluded  as  they  do  now  :  "  Jesu,  to  Thee  be  glory,  Who  wast  born 
of  a  virgin,"  etc.  Any  adoration  of  the  Blessed  Virgin  as  of  a  "  goddess  " 
was  so  alien  to  the  people  that  it  would  have  been  rejected  with 

In  the  same  way  that  the  Invitatories  just  quoted  expressly  reserve 
adoration  for  the  Divine  Son,  so  the  veneration  of  the  Mother  of  God 
in  the  Church's  Offices  is  justified  on  exactly  the  same  grounds  as  those 
which,  according  to  Luther,  result  from  the  mystery  of  the  Visitation 
and  from  the  Magnificat.  The  Church  has  always  extolled  Mary  simply 
in  the  spirit  of  the  Magnificat. — Luther  himself  had  published  a  printed 
exposition  of  the  Magnificat  in  1521.  There  he  still  speaks  of  the 
Blessed  Virgin  in  the  usual  way  ("  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  7,  p.  545  f . ; 
Erl.  ed.,  45,  p.  214  f.).  At  the  commencement  of  the  work  he  invokes 
her  assistance  with  the  words  :  "  May  the  same  tender  Mother  of  God 
obtain  for  me  the  spirit  to  interpret  her  song  usefully  and  practically 
.  .  .  that  we  may  sing  and  chant  this  Magnificat  eternally  in  the  life 
to  come.  So  help  us  God.  Amen  "  (p.  546  =  214).  In  the  same  way, 
at  the  close,  he  expresses  his  hope  that  a  right  understanding  of  the 
Magnificat  "  may  not  only  illumine  and  teach,  but  burn  and  live  in 
body  and  soul  ;  may  Christ  grant  us  this  by  the  intercession  and 
assistance  of  His  dear  Mother  Mary.  Amen  "  (p.  601  =  287).  Thus  he 
was  then  still  in  favour  of  the  invocation  and  intercession  of  the  Holy 
Mother  of  God,  whereas  later  he  set  aside  the  invocation  of  any  Saint, 
and  declared  it  to  be  one  of  "  the  abuses  of  Antichrist."  (See  Kostlin, 
"  Luthers  Theologie,"  I2,  p.  370  ff.) — Luther  wrote  his  exposition  of 
the  Magnificat  in  the  spirit  which  must  inspire  every  theologian  who 
studies  the  canticle,  and  which  had  been  even  stronger  in  him  during 
his  Catholic  period.  At  the  same  time  he  obviously  wished  to  work 
upon  the  wavering  and  cautious  Court  of  the  Elector,  and  for  this 

238          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

The  supreme  distinction  which  the  Church  acknowledges  in 
Mary — viz.  her  immaculate  conception  and  exemption  from 
original  sin  from  the  first  moment  of  her  soul's  existence — 
Luther  himself  accepted  at  first  and  adhered  to  for  a  consider 
able  time,  following  in  this  the  tradition  of  his  Order.1 

All  honour  was  to  be  given  to  Christ  as  God  ;  this  right  and 
praiseworthy  view,  which  Luther  was  indefatigable  in  expressing, 
misled  him  in  the  matter  of  the  veneration  and  invocation  of 
Mary  and  the  Saints.  Of  this  he  would  not  hear,  though  such 
had  ever  been  the  practice  of  the  Church,  and  though  it  is  hard 
to  see  how  God's  glory  can  suffer  any  derogation  through  the 
honour  paid  to  His  servants.  In  this  Luther  went  astray  ;  the 
dogma  of  the  adorable  Divinity  of  Jesus  Christ  was,  however, 
always  to  remain  to  him  something  sacred  and  sublime. 

Statements  to  Luther's  advantage  from  various  Instructions. 
His  Language. 

In  his  sermons  Luther  was  so  firm  in  upholding  the 
Divinity  of  Christ,  in  opposition  to  the  scepticism  he 
thought  he  detected  in  other  circles,  that  one  cannot  but  be 
favourably  impressed.  He  was  filled  with  the  liveliest  sense 
of  man's  duty  of  submitting  his  reason  to  this  mystery  ;  he 
even  goes  too  far,  in  recommending  abdication  of  the 
intellect  and  in  his  disparagement  of  human  reason  ;  what 

reason  dedicated  this  work,  which,  though  peaceful  in  tone,  contained 
hidden  errors,  to  Prince  Johann  Frederick  in  a  submissive  letter.  It 
should  be  noted  that  Luther  wrote  this  dedication  soon  after  receiving 
his  summons  to  Worms.  It  is  dated  March  10,  1521  (ibid.,  p.  545  =  212. 
Cp.  "  Briefwechsel,"  3,  p.  109). 

1  He  admitted  this  belief  handed  down  in  the  Catholic  Schools, 
though  not  proclaimed  a  dogma  till  much  later,  in  the  sermon  he 
preached  in  1527  "  on  the  day  of  the  Conception  of  Mary  the  Mother 
of  God  "  :  "  It  is  a  sweet  and  pious  belief  that  the  infusion  of  Mary's 
soul  was  effected  without  original  sin  ;  so  that  in  the  very  infusion  of 
her  soul  she  was  also  purified  from  original  sin  and  adorned  with  God's 
gifts,  receiving  a  pure  soul  infused  by  God  ;  thus  from  the  first  moment 
she  began  to  live  she  was  free  from  all  sin  "  ("  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  152, 
p.  58).  The  sermon  was  taken  down  in  notes  and  published  with 
Luther's  approval.  The  same  statements  concerning  the  Immaculate 
Conception  still  remain  in  a  printed  edition  published  in  1529,  but  in 
the  later  editions  which  appeared  during  Luther's  lifetime  they  dis 
appear.  (Cp.  N.  Paulus,  "  Lit.  Beil.  der  Koln.  Volksztng.,"  1904, 
No.  41.)  In  a  work  of  1521  he  says  :  Mary  not  only  kept  God's  com 
mandments  perfectly  but  also  "  received  so  much  grace  that  she  was 
quite  filled  with  it,  as  we  believe  "  ("  Rationis  Latomiance  confu- 
tatio"  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  8.  p.  56  ;  ''  Opp.  lat.  var.,"  7,  p.  416). 
As  Luther's  intellectual  and  ethical  development  progressed  we  cannot 
naturally  expect  the  sublime  picture  of  the  pure  Mother  of  God,  the 
type  of  virginity,  of  the  spirit  of  sacrifice  and  of  sanctity  to  furnish 
any  great  attraction  for  him,  and  as  a  matter  of  fact  such  statements 
as  the  above  are  no  longer  met  with  in  his  works. 


he  is  anxious  to  do  is  to  make  all  his  religious  feeling 
culminate  in  a  trusting  faith  in  the  words  :  "  God  so  loved 
the  world  that  He  gave  His  only  begotten  Son  for  us." 

In  his  sermons  and  instructions  he  demands  a  similar 
yielding  of  reason  to  faith  with  regard  to  the  mystery  of 
Christ's  Presence  in  the  Sacrament,  though  in  this  case  ho 
had  not  shrunk  from  twisting  the  doctrine  to  suit  his  own 
ideas.  It  would  hardly  be  possible  to  maintain  more 
victoriously  against  all  gainsayers  the  need  of  standing  by 
the  literal  sense,  or  at  least  of  excluding  any  figurative 
interpretation  of,  the  \vords  of  institution  "  This  is  My 
Body,"  than  Luther  did  in  many  of  his  pronouncements 
against  the  Sacrameritarians.1 

With  advancing  years,  and  in  view  of  the  dissensions  and 
confusion  prevailing  in  the  Reformed  camp,  he  came  to 
insist  more  and  more  on  those  positive  elements,  which,  for 
all  his  aversion  for  the  ancient  Church,  he  had  never  ceased 
to  defend.  Of  this  we  have  a  monument  in  one  of  his  last 
works,  viz.  the  "  Kurtz  Bekentnis,"  to  which  we  shall  return 
later.  Embittered  by  the  scepticism  apparent  in  Zwinglian- 
ism  and  elsewhere,  which,  as  he  thought,  threatened  to  sap 
all  religion,  he  there  obeys  his  heart's  instincts  and  gives 
the  fullest  expression  to  his  faith  in  general  and  not  merely 
to  his  belief  in  Christ's  presence  in  the  Sacrament.2 

Concerning  the  Sacrament  of  the  Altar  he  gave  the 
following  noteworthy  answer  to  a  question  put  to  him 
jointly,  in  1544,  by  the  three  princely  brothers  of  Anhalt, 
viz.  whether  they  should  do  away  with  the  Elevation  of  the 
Sacrament  in  the  liturgy.  "  By  no  means,"  he  replied, 
"  for  such  abrogation  would  tend  to  diminish  respect  for 
the  Sacrament  and  cause  it  to  be  undervalued.  When 
Dr.  Pommer  abolished  the  Elevation  [at  Wittenberg,  in 
1542]  during  my  absence,  I  did  not  approve  of  it,  and  now 
I  am  even  thinking  of  re-introducing  it.  For  the  Elevation 
is  one  thing,  the  carrying  about  of  the  Sacrament  in  pro 
cession  quite  another  [at  Wittenberg  Luther  would  not 
allow  such  processions  of  the  Sacrament].  If  Christ  is  truly 
present  in  the  Bread  ('  in  pane  '),  why  should  He  not  be 
treated  with  the  utmost  respect  and  even  be  adored  ?  " 
Joachim,  Prince  of  Anhalt,  added,  when  relating  this  ; 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  23,  pp.  64-302  ;   Eil.  ed.,  30,  pp.  16-150, 

2  Ibid.,  Erl.  ed.,  32,  pp.  397-425. 

240         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

"  We  saw  how  Luther  bowed  low  at  the  Elevation  with 
great  devotion  and  reverently  worshipped  Christ."1 

Certain  controversialists  have  undoubtedly  been  in  the  wrong 
in  making  out  Luther  to  have  been  sceptical  about,  or  even 
opposed  at  heart  to,  many  of  the  ancient  dogmas  which  he  never 
attacked,  for  instance,  the  Trinity,  or  the  Divinity  of  Christ.  A 
few  vague  and  incautious  statements  occasionally  let  slip  by  him 
are  more  than  counterbalanced  by  a  wealth  of  others  which  tell 
in  favour  of  his  faith,  and  he  himself  would  have  been  the  last  to 
admit  the  unfortunate  inferences  drawn  more  or  less  rightly  from 
certain  propositions  emitted  by  him.  It  is  a  lucky  thing,  that,  in 
actual  life,  error  almost  always  claims  the  right  of  not  being 
bound  down  too  tightly  in  the  chains  of  logic.  When  Luther,  for 
instance,  made  every  man  judge  of  the  meaning  of  the  Bible,  he 
was  setting  up  a  principle  which  must  have  dissolved  all  cohesion 
between  Christians,  and  thus,  of  necessity,  he  was  compelled  to 
limit,  somewhat  illogically,  the  application  of  the  principle. 

In  a  passage  frequently  cited  against  him,  where  he  shows 
himself  vexed  with  the  ancient  term  employed  by  the  Church 
to  express  the  Son's  being  of  the  same  substance  with  the  Father 
("  homoousios  "),  it  was  not  his  intention  to  rail  against  the 
doctrine  therein  expressed,  but  merely  to  take  exception  to  the 
word.  He  explicitly  distinguishes  between  the  word  and  the 
thing  ("  vocabulum  et  res  ").  He  says  that,  so  long  as  one  holds 
fast  to  the  doctrine  ("  modo  rem  teneam  ")  scripturally  defined  by 
the  Nicene  Council,  it  was  no  heresy  to  dislike  the  word  or  to 
refuse  to  employ  it.2  Hence  the  passage  affords  no  ground  for 
saying,  that  "  Luther  was  rash  enough  to  tamper  with  the 
doctrine  of  the  Person  of  Christ."  On  the  other  hand,  the  new 
doctrine  of  the  omnipresence  of  the  Body  of  Christ  evolved  by 
him  during  the  controversy  on  the  Sacrament,  can  scarcely  be 
considered  creditable.3  His  views  on  the  "  communicatio  idio- 
matum  "4  in  Christ,  and  particularly  on  the  Redemption,5  also 
contain  contradictions  not  to  be  explained  away. 

Contrariwise  we  must  dismiss  the  charge  based  on  his  repug 
nance  for  the  word  "  Threefoldhood,"  by  which  Germans 
designate  the  Trinity,  as  if  this  involved  antagonism  on  his  part 
to  the  mystery  itself.  He  was  referring  merely  to  the  term 
when  he  said  :  "  It  is  not  particularly  good  German  and  does  not 
sound  well,  but  since  it  cannot  be  improved  upon,  we  must  speak 
as  best  we  can."6  An  undeniable  confession  of  faith  in  the 
Trinity  is  contained  in  this  very  passage,  and  in  countless  others 
too. — When  abbreviating  the  Litany  he  indeed  omitted  the 
invocation  "  Sancta  Trinitas  unus  Deus,"  but  this  was  not  from 
any  hostility  to  the  doctrine  but  from  a  wish  not  to  have  "  too 

1  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  341. 

2  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  8,  p.  117  f.  ;   "  Opp.  Jat.  var.,"  5,  p.  505  scq, 

3  Kostlin,  "  Luthers  Theologie,"  22,  p.  145  f.          *  Ibid.,  p.  192  ff, 

5  Ibid,,  pp.  148-200. 

6  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  I2,  p.  1  f.  ;    122,  p.  408. 


many  words."  He  left  in  their  old  places  the  separate  invoca 
tions  of  the  Father,  Son  and  Holy  Ghost,  and  deemed  this  quite 

By  his  retention  of  the  belief  in  the  three  Divine  Persons 
and  in  the  Divinity  of  the  Redeemer,  Luther  was  instru 
mental  in  preserving  among  his  future  followers  a  treasure 
inherited  from  past  ages,  in  which  not  a  few  have  found 
their  consolation.  We  must  not  be  unmindful  of  how  he 
strove  to  defend  it  from  the  assaults  of  unbelief,  in  his  time 
still  personified  in  Judaism.  He  did  not  sin  by  debasing 
the  Second  Person  of  the  Trinity,  but  rather  by  foisting  on 
God  Incarnate  attributes  which  are  not  really  His  ;  for 
instance,  by  arguing  that,  owing  to  the  intimacy  of  the  two 
Natures,  Divine  and  Human,  in  Christ,  His  Human  Nature 
must  be  as  omnipresent  as  His  Divine  ;  or,  again,  by 
teaching  that  mere  belief  in  one's  redemption  and  sanctifica- 
tion  suffices  to  destroy  sin  ;  or,  again,  when  his  too  lively 
eschatological  fancy  led  him  to  see  Christ,  the  Almighty 
conqueror  of  the  devil  and  his  world,  already  on  the  point 
of  coming  to  the  Judgment.  And  just  as  Christ's  Godhead 
was  the  very  fulcrum  of  all  his  teaching,  so  he  defended 
likewise  the  other  Articles  of  the  Apostles'  Creed  with  such 
courage,  force  and  eloquence,  as,  since  his  death,  few  of  his 
followers  have  found  themselves  capable  of.  About  the 
Person  of  the  Redeemer  he  wove  all  the  usual  Christological 
doctrines,  His  Virgin  Birth,  His  truly  miraculous  Resurrec 
tion,  His  descent  into  Hell,  His  Ascension  and  Second 
Advent ;  finally,  also,  the  resurrection  of  the  dead,  the 
future  Judgment,  and  the  everlasting  Heaven  and  ever 
lasting  Hell.  From  the  well-spring  of  the  ancient  creed, 
under  God's  Grace,  Lutherans  without  number  have  drawn 
and  still  continue  to  draw  motives  for  doing  what  is  good, 
consolation  amidst  affliction  and  strength  to  lead  pious  lives. 

"  What  holiness,  devotion  and  heroic  virtue  do  we  not 
find  among  non-Catholics.  God's  Grace  is  not  confined 
within  the  four  walls  of  the  Catholic  Church,  but  breathes 
even  in  the  hearts  of  outsiders,  working  in  them,  when 
opportunity  affords,  the  miracle  of  justification  and  adoption, 
and  thus  ensuring  the  eternal  salvation  of  countless  multi 
tudes  who  are  either  entirely  ignorant  of  the  true  Church, 
as  are  the  upright  heathen,  or  mistake  her  true  form  and 
nature  as  do  countless  Protestants,  brought  up  amidst  the 
iv. — R 

242          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

crassest  prejudice.    To  all  such  as  these  the  Church  does  not 
close  the  gates  of  Heaven  "  (J.  Pohle). 

It  would  be  superfluous  to  enumerate  amongst  Luther's 
favourable  traits  the  respect  he  always  paid  to  Holy 
Scripture  as  the  Word  of  God,  demanding  for  its  infallible 
revelations  a  willing  faith  and  the  sacrifice  of  one's  own 

Greatly  as  he  erred,  in  wilfully  applying  his  new,  subjective 
principle  of  interpretation  and  in  excluding  certain  of  the  Sacred 
Books,  still  the  Bible  itself  he  always  declared  to  be  an  object  of 
the  highest  reverence.  Thanks  to  a  retentive  memory  he  made 
his  own  the  words  of  Scripture,  and  even  adopted  its  style.  His 
"  enthusiasm  for  the  inexhaustible  riches  and  Divine  character 
of  Holy  Scripture,"  of  which  the  earlier  Dollinger  speaks,1  has, 
and  with  some  reason,  been  held  up  by  Luther's  followers  as  the 
model,  nay,  the  palladium  of  Lutheranism  as  a  whole  ;  on  the 
other  hand,  however,  Dollinger's  accompanying  censure  on  Luther's 
"  arbitrary  misuse  "  of  the  Bible-text  must  also  commend  itself 
not  only  to  Catholics  but  to  every  serious  student  of  the  Bible. 
High  praise  for  Luther's  acquaintance  with  Scripture  combined 
with  severe  blame  for  his  deviation  from  tradition  are  forth 
coming  from  a  contemporary  of  the  early  years  of  Luther's  public 
career.  In  a  short,  imprinted  and  anonymous  work  entitled 
"  Urteil  iiber  Luther,"  now  in  the  Munich  State  Library,  we 
read  :  "In  the  fine  art  of  the  written  Word  of  God,  i.e.  the  Bible, 
I  hold  Martin  Luther  to  be  the  most  learned  of  men,  whether  of 
those  now  living  on  earth  or  of  those  who  have  departed  long 
since  ;  he  is,  moreover,  well  versed  in  the  two  languages,  both 
Latin  and  German.  I  do  not,  however,  regard  him  as  a  Christian 
— for  to  be  learned  and  eloquent  is  not  to  be  a  Christian — but  as  a 
heretic  and  schismatic  "  ;  he  was,  it  adds,  "  the  scourge  of  an 
angry  God."2 

In  the  field  of  scriptural  activity  his  German  translation 
of  the  whole  Bible  has  procured  for  him  enduring  fame. 
Since  the  birth  of  Humanism  not  a  few  scholars  had  drawn 
attention  to  the  languages  in  which  the  Bible  was  originally 
written  ;  Luther,  however,  was  the  first  who  ventured  to 
make  a  serious  attempt  to  produce  a  complete  translation 
of  all  the  Sacred  Books  on  the  basis  of  the  original  text. 

Thanks  to  his  German  version,  from  the  linguistic  point 
of  view  so  excellent,  Protestants  down  to  our  own  day  have 
been  familiar  with  the  Bible.  His  rendering  of  the  Bible 

1  Dollinger,  "  Luther,  eine  Skizze,"  p.  58  ;    "  KL.,"  82,  col.  343, 

2  "  Cod.  germ.  Monacensis,"  4842,  Bl.  1,  2'. 


stories  and  doctrines,  at  once  so  able  and  so  natural,  was 
a  gain  not  only  to  the  language  of  religion  but  even  to 
profane  literature,  just  as  his  writings  generally  have  with 
out  question  largely  contributed  to  the  furtherance  of  the 
German  tongue. 

The  scholarly  Caspar  Ulenberg,  writing  on  this  subject  from 
the  Catholic  side  in  the  16th  century,  expresses  himself  most 
favourably.  "  What  Luther,"  he  says,  "  after  consulting  the 
recognised  opinion  of  Hebrew  and  Greek  experts,  took  to  be  the 
true  meaning  of  the  text  under  discussion,  that  he  clothed  in  pure 
and  elegant  German,  on  the  cultivation  of  which  he  had  all  his 
life  bestowed  great  care.  He  had  made  such  progress  in  the  art 
of  writing,  teaching  and  expounding,  that,  if  we  take  into  con 
sideration  the  beauty  and  the  brilliance  of  his  language,  so  free 
from  artifice,  as  well  as  the  originality  of  his  expression,  we  must 
allow  that  he  excelled  all  in  the  use  of  the  German  tongue  so 
that  none  can  compare  with  him.  Thus  it  was  that  he  gained 
so  uncanny  an  influence  over  the  hearts  of  his  Germans,  that,  by 
caressing  and  flattering  and  using  the  allurements  of  the  Divine 
Word,  he  could  make  them  believe  whatever  he  pleased.  In  this 
translation  of  the  Bible  he  was,  above  all,  at  pains,  by  means  of  a 
certain  elegance  and  charm  of  speech,  to  entice  all  to  become  his 
readers,  and  thus  to  win  men's  hearts."1 

Luther  cannot  indeed  be  called  the  creator  of  New-High- 
German,  either  by  reason  of  his  translation  of  the  Bible  or  of  his 
other  German  writings.  Yet,  using  as  he  did  the  already  existing 
treasure  of  the  language  with  such  ability,  his  influence  on  the 
German  language  was  necessarily  very  great,  especially  as, 
owing  to  the  great  spread  of  his  writings  in  those  early  days  of 
printing,  his  works  were  practically  the  first  in  the  literary  field, 
and,  indeed,  in  many  places  excluded  all  others.  "  Luther's 
importance  as  regards  the  language,"  declares  one  of  the  most 
recent  students  of  this  matter,  "  is  less  apparent  in  the  details 
of  grammar,  in  which  he  is  sometimes  rather  backward,  than  in 
the  general  effect  of  his  exertions  on  behalf  of  New-High-German." 
It  is  of  small  importance,  the  same  writer  remarks,  "if  in  the 
mere  wealth  of  common  idioms  one  or  other  of  the  towns  even 
within  the  confines  of  his  native  Saxon  land — Grimma,  Leipzig, 
Dresden — were  in  advance  of  the  language  employed  by  Luther."2 

Luther's  translation  of  the  Bible  will  be  treated  of  more 
in  detail  elsewhere  (vol.  v.,  xxxiv.,  3).  Here,  however, 
mention  may  be  made  of  the  fine  quality  of  the  German 
used  in  his  sermons,  his  theological  and  polemical  writings, 
as  well  as  in  his  popular  works  of  devotion. 

"  Gesch.  Luthers,"  German  edition,  Mayence,  1836,  p.  463  f. 
2  E.    Gutjahr,    "  Zur    Entstehung    der    neuhochdeutschen    Schrift- 
sprache  "  ;     "  Studien   zur    deutschen  Rechts-  und   Sprachgesch.,"  2, 
Leipzig,  1906. 

244         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

The  figures  and  comparisons  in  which  his  sparkling  fancy 
delights,  particularly  in  the  devotional  booklets  intended 
for  the  common  people,  his  popular,  sympathetic  and  often 
thoughtful  adaptation  of  his  language  to  the  subject  and  to 
the  personality  of  the  reader,  the  truly  German  stamp  of 
his  phraseology,  lending  to  the  most  difficult  as  well  as  to  the 
most  ordinary  subjects  just  the  clothing  they  require — all 
this  no  one  can  observe  and  enjoy  without  paying  tribute 
to  his  gift  of  description  and  language. 

"  His  vocabulary  was  strong  and  incisive,"  Johannes  Janssen 
truly  remarks,  "  his  style  full  of  life  and  movement,  his  similes,  in 
their  naked  plainness,  were  instinct  with  vigour  and  went  straight 
to  the  mark.  He  drew  from  the  rich  mines  of  the  vernacular 
tongue,  and  in  popular  eloquence  and  oratory  few  equalled  him. 
Where  he  still  spoke  in  the  spirit  of  the  Catholic  past  his  language 
was  often  truly  sublime.  In  his  works  of  instruction  and  edifica 
tion  he  more  than  once  reveals  a  depth  of  religious  grasp  which 
reminds  one  of  the  days  of  German  mysticism.1 

His  first  pupils  could  not  sufficiently  extol  his  gift  of  language. 
Justus  Jonas  in  his  panegyric  on  Luther  declares,  though  his 
words  are  far-fetched  :  "  Even  the  Chanceries  have  learnt  from 
him,  at  least  in  part,  to  speak  and  write  correct  German  ;  for  he 
revived  the  use  of  the  German  language  so  that  now  we  are  again 
able  to  speak  and  write  it  accurately,  as  many  a  person  of  degree 
must  testify  and  witness."2  And  of  the  influence  of  his  spoken 
words  on  people's  minds  Hieronymus  Weller  declares,  that  it  had 
been  said  of  him,  his  words  "  made  each  one  fancy  he  could  see 
into  the  very  hearts  of  those  troubled  or  tempted,  and  that  he 
could  heal  wounded  and  broken  spirits."3 

The  Spiritual  Guide. 

Not  merely  as  professor,  preacher  and  writer,  but  also  as 
spiritual  leader,  did  Luther  exhibit  many  qualities  which 
add  to  the  attraction  of  his  picture.  Whatever  may  be  the 
habits  of  polemical  writers,  the  historian  who  wishes  to 
acquit  himself  properly  of  his  task  must  not  in  so  momentous 

1  "  Hist,  of  the  German  People  "  (Eng.  Trans.),  3,  p.  238. 

2  "  Leichenrede  "   of   Feb.    19,    1546,    commencement  ;     "  Luthers 
Werke,"  ed.  Walch,  21,  p.  362*  ff. 

3  "  Wellers  Deutsche  Schriften,"  Tl.  3,  p.  215.     Before  this  Weller 
remarks  :    "  For  he  was  equal  to  the  greatest  prophets  and  Apostles 
in  spirit,  strength,  wisdom,  ability  and  experience."     He  attributes 
to   him    "  a   prophetical   spirit,    notable   strength,    generosity   and    a 
power  of  faith  such  as  we  read  existed  in  the  prophet  Elias.  ..."  Great 
persecutions  and  temptations   had   been   his   masters   and    teachers  ; 
they  it  was  who  had  taught  him  the  art  of  speaking. 


a  matter  evade  the  duty  of  depicting  the  favourable  as  well 
as  the  unfavourable  sides  of  Luther's  character. 

Though  Luther  did  not  regard  himself  as  the  pastor  of 
Wittenberg,  yet  as  much  depended  on  him  there  as  if  he 
had  actually  been  the  regular  minister  ;  moreover,  as  was 
only  to  be  expected,  throughout  the  Saxon  Electorate  as 
well  as  in  other  districts  won  over  to  him,  he  exercised  a 
certain  sway.  As  can  be  proved  from  his  letters  and  other 
documents,  he  freely  offered  his  best  services,  if  only  for  the 
good  repute  of  the  Evangel,  to  abolish  scandals,  to  punish 
preachers  who  led  bad  lives,  to  promote  attendance  at 
public  worship  and  the  reception  of  communion,  to  help  on 
the  cause  of  the  schools  and  the  education  of  the  young,  and 
in  every  other  way  to  amend  the  Christian  life. 

In  order  to  revive  discipline  at  Wittenberg,  he  tried  the 
effect  of  excommunication,  though  with  no  very  con 
spicuous  success.  He  took  the  brave  step  of  placing  the 
Town  Commandant,  Hans  Metzsch,  under  a  sort  of  ban 
for  his  notorious  disregard  of  the  Church.1  What  he  then 
told  the  congregation  was  calculated  to  inspire  a  wholesome 
dread,  and  to  recall  them  to  their  duties  towards  God  and 
their  neighbour.  The  incident  was  likely  to  prove  all  the 
more  effectual  seeing  that  Luther  had  on  his  side  both  Town 
Council  and  congregation,  Metzsch  having  previously  fallen 
out  with  them,  a  fact  which  undoubtedly  emboldened 

When  Antinomianism,  with  its  perilous  teaching  against 
the  binding  character  of  the  Divine  Law,  strove  to  strike 
root  in  the  Saxon  Electorate,  he  set  himself  with  unusual 
vigour  to  combat  the  evil,  and  in  his  writings,  sermons  and 
letters  set  forth  principles  worthy  of  being  taken  to  heart 
concerning  the  importance  of  the  Commandments  and  the 
perils  of  self-will.  Similar  edifying  traits  are  apparent  in 
his  struggle  with  other  "  Rotters."  In  the  elimination  of 
the  sectarian  element  from  the  heart  of  the  new  faith  and  in 
instancing  its  dangers,  he  shows  himself  very  emphatic,  and, 
at  times,  the  force  of  his  reasoning  is  inimitable.  Neither 
was  he  slow  to  find  practical  measures  to  ensure  its  extirpa 
tion,  especially  when  it  threatened  the  good  name  and 
stability  of  his  work.3 

1  Above,  p.  210.  2  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1,  pp.  27,  37. 

3  On  the  inner  connection  between  his  own  teaching  and  Antinomi 
anism  and  on  his  controversy  with  Agricola,  see  vol.  v.,  xxix.,  2  and  3. 

246         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

He  exercised  many  of  the  other  labours  of  his  ministry  by 
means  of  his  writings  ;  with  the  help  of  his  pen  and  the 
press,  he,  in  his  quality  of  spiritual  guide,  attacked  all  the 
many-sided  questions  of  life,  seeking  to  impart  instruction 
to  his  followers  wherever  they  might  chance  to  be.  No  one 
so  far  had  made  such  use  of  the  newly  invented  art  of 
printing  for  the  purpose  of  exerting  religious  influence  and 
for  spiritual  government. 

He  despatched  a  vast  number  of  circular-letters  to  the 
congregations,  some  with  detailed  and  fervent  exhortations  ; 

O          O  7 

his  Postils  on  the  scriptural  Lessons  for  the  Sundays  and 
Feast  Days  he  scattered  far  and  wide  amongst  the  masses  ; 
he  was  also  interested  in  good  books  on  profane  subjects, 
and  exhorted  all  to  assist  in  the  suppression  of  obscene 
romances  and  tales;1  he  also  set  to  work  to  purify  ^Esop's 
Fables — which,  under  Humanist  influence,  had  become  a 
source  of  corruption — from  filthy  accretions  so  that  they 
might  be  of  use  in  the  education  of  the  young.2  The  collec 
tion  of  German  Proverbs  which  he  commenced  was  also 
intended  to  serve  for  the  instruction  of  youth.3 

He  justly  regretted  that  amongst  the  Legends  of  the 
Saints  current  amongst  the  people  there  were  many 
historical  untruths  and  impossibilities.  Many  of  his  remarks 
on  these  stories  do  credit  to  his  critical  sense,  particularly 
as  in  his  time  very  few  had  as  yet  concerned  themselves  with 
the  revision  of  these  legends.  It  was  far  from  advantageous 
to  ecclesiastical  literature,  that,  in  spite  of  the  well-grounded 
objections  raised  by  Luther  and  by  some  Catholic  scholars, 
deference  to  old-standing  tradition  allowed  such  fictions  to 
be  retained  and  even  further  enhanced.  "  It  is  the  devil's 
own  plague,"  Luther  groans,  "  that  we  have  no  reliable 
legends  of  the  Saints.  ...  To  correct  them  is  an  onerous 
task."  "  The  legend  of  St.  Catherine,"  he  says  on  the  same 
occasion  to  his  friends,  "  is  quite  at  variance  with  Roman 
history.  Whoever  concocted  such  a  tale  must  now  assuredly 
be  sitting  in  the  depths  of  hell."4  He  goes,  however,  too  far 
when  he  says  that  the  inaccuracies  were  intentional,  "  in 
famous  "  lies  devised  by  Popery,  and  adds  :  "  We  never 
dared  to  protest  against  them." — As  though  such  literary  and 

1  Cp.  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  504.  2  See  vol.  v.,  xxxiv.,  2. 

3  E.  Thiele,  "  Luthers  Sprichwortersamml.,"  Weimar,  1900. 

4  Mathesius,  "  ^    chreden,"  p.  346. 


often  poetic  outgrowths  of  a  more  childlike  age  were  not  to 
be  regarded  as  merely  harmless,  and  as  though  criticism  had 
been  prohibited  by  the  Church.  It  is  true,  nevertheless,  that 
criticism  had  not  been  sufficiently  exercised,  and  if  Luther's 
undertaking  and  the  controversies  of  the  16th  century 
helped  to  arouse  it,  or,  rather,  to  quicken  the  efforts  already 
made  in  this  direction,  first  in  the  field  of  Bible-study  and 
Church-history  and  then,  more  gradually,  in  that  of  popular 
legendary  and  devotional  literature,  no  wise  man  can  see 
therein  any  cause  for  grief. 

"  An  die  Radherrn  aller  Stedte  deutsches  Lands,  das  sie 
christliche  Schulen  auffrichten  und  halten  sollen  "  is  the 
title  of  one  of  Luther's  writings  of  1524,  in  which  he  urges 
the  erection  of  schools  with  such  vigour  that  the  circular  in 
question  must  be  assigned  a  high  place  among  his  hortatory 
works  :  "  Y\  ith  this  writing  Luther  will  recapture  the 
affection  of  many  of  his  opponents,"  wrote  a  Zwickau 
schoolmaster  after  reading  it.1  "  Ob  Kriegsleutte  auch 
ynn  seligem  Stande  seyn  kiinden  "  (1520)  is  the  heading  of 
another  broadsheet  of  his,  dealing  with  the  secular  sword, 
the  divinely  established  "  office  of  war  "  and  the  rights  of 
the  authorities.  For  this  Luther  made  use  of  Augustine's 
work  "  Contra  Fauslum  manichceum"2  It  is  said  that  part 
of  the  proofs,  without  any  author's  name,  was  put  into  the 
hands  of  Duke  George  of  Saxony ;  thereupon  he  remarked 
to  Lucas  Cranach  :  "  See,  I  have  here  a  booklet  which  is 
better  than  anything  Luther  could  do."3  At  a  later  date 
Luther  urged  the  people  in  eloquent  words  to  take  up  arms 
against  the  Turk,  though  he  had  at  first  been  opposed  to 
resistance  ;  nevertheless,  he  ever  maintained  his  unfavour 
able  attitude  towards  the  Empire,  already  described  in 
vol.  iii.,  even  on  this  question  of  such  vital  importance  to 
Germany.  He  was  relentless  in  his  criticism  of  German 
unpreparedness  for  war,  of  the  fatal  habit  of  disregarding 
danger  and  of  other  possible  sources  of  disaster  ;  he  also 
advanced  religious  motives  for  joining  in  the  war,  and 
exhorted  all  the  faithful  bravely  to  assist  by  their  prayers. 

Whilst    these    and    other    writings    deal    with    practical 

1  "  Briefe  an  Stephan  Roth,"  ed.  Buchwald  ("  Archiv  des  deutschen 
Buchhandels,"  16,  1893),  p.  37  ;    Kostlin-Kawerau,  1,  p.  548. 

2  L.  Cardauns,  "  Die  Lehre  vom  Widerstande  des  Volkes,"  Bonn, 
1903,  p.  125. 

3  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  10. 

248         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

questions  affecting  public  life  in  which  his  position  and 
religious  ideas  entitled  him  to  interfere,  a  large  number  of 
works  and  pamphlets  are  devoted  to  domestic  and  private 
needs.  In  his  "  Trost  fur  die  Weibern  welchen  es  ungerat 
gegangen  ist  mit  Kinder  Geberen  "  (1542)  he  even  has  a  kind 
word  for  such  wives  as  had  had  a  miscarriage,  and  consoles 
those  who  were  troubled  about  the  fate  of  their  unbaptised 
infants.  From  the  theological  point  of  view  this  subject 
had,  however,  been  treated  better  and  more  correctly  by 
others  before  his  day.  He  was  also  at  his  post  with  words 
of  direction  and  sympathy  when  pestilence  threatened,  as 
his  writing  "  Ob  man  fur  dem  Sterben  fliehen  muge  "  (1527) 
bears  witness.  He  frequently  composed  Prefaces  to  books 
written  by  others,  in  order  to  encourage  the  authors  and  to 
help  on  what  he  considered  useful  works  ;  thus,  for  instance, 
he  wrote  a  commendatory  Introduction  to  Justus  Menius's 
"  CEconomia  Christiana  "  (1529). 

The  New  Form  of  Confession, 

Luther's  pastoral  experience  convinced  him  that  Con 
fession  was  conducive  to  the  maintenance  and  furtherance 
of  religious  life.  He  accordingly  determined  to  re-introduce 
it  in  a  new  shape,  i.e.  without  invalidating  the  doctrines  he 
had  preached  concerning  faith  and  freedom.  Hence,  at  times 
we  find  him  speaking  almost  like  an  apologist  of  the  Church 
concerning  this  practice  of  earlier  ages  and  its  wholesome 
effects.  He  insists,  however,  that  no  confession  of  all 
mortal  sins  must  be  required,  nor  ought  Confession  to  be 
made  a  duty,  but  merely  counselled. 

In  his  work  "  Von  der  Beicht,  ob  der  Bapst  Macht  habe 
zu  gepieten  "  (1521)  he  begins  one  section  with  the  words  : 
;'  Two  reasons  ought  to  make  us  ready  and  willing  to 
confess,"  which  he  then  proceeds  to  expound  quite  in  the 
manner  of  the  olden  Catholic  works  of  instruction.1  Else 
where  he  expresses  his  joy  that  Confession  had  been  bestowed 
on  the  Church  of  Christ,  especially  for  the  relief  of  troubled 
consciences  ;  Confession  and  Absolution  must  not  be 
allowed  to  fall  into  disuse  ;  to  despise  so  costly  a  treasure 
would  be  criminal. 

Of  Luther  himself  it  is  related  again  and  again,  that,  after 

1  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  8,  p.  176  ;   Erl.  ed.,  27,  p.  307. 


having  confessed,   he  received  "  Absolution,"  either  from 
Pastor  Bugenhagen  of  Wittenberg  or  from  someone  else. 

The  words  Absolution  and  Confession  must  not,  however, 
as  already  hinted,  be  allowed  to  mislead  those  accustomed 
to  their  Catholic  sense.  Sometimes  in  Catholic  works  we 
read  quotations  from  Luther  which  convey  the  wrong  im 
pression,  that  he  had  either  retained  the  older  doctrine 
practically  entire,  or  at  least  wished  to  do  so.  So  little  is 
this  the  case,  that,  on  the  contrary,  when  he  mentions 
Confession  it  is  usually  only  to  rail  at  the  "  slavery  "  of 
conscience  and  the  spiritual  tyranny  of  the  past.1  Absolu 
tion,  according  to  him,  could  be  received  "  from  the  lips  of 
the  pastor,  or  of  some  other  brother."2  Even  the  ordinary 
preaching  of  the  Gospel  to  the  faithful  he  considers  as 
"  fundamentally  and  at  bottom  an  '  absolutio  '  wherein 
forgiveness  of  sins  is  proclaimed."3  In  Confession  there 
was  no  "  Sacrament  "  in  the  sense  that  Baptism  and  the 
Supper  were  Sacraments,  but  merely  "  an  exercise  of  the 
virtue  of  Baptism,"  an  act  in  which  the  simple  Word 
became  a  means  of  grace.  The  Word  was  to  arouse  and 
awaken  in  the  heart  of  the  Christian  the  assurance  of 
forgiveness.  The  faith  of  the  penitent  is  the  sole  condition 
for  the  appropriation  of  the  Divine  promises.4  Of  the  way 
in  which  Luther  in  the  Smaller  Catechism  nevertheless 
emphasises  the  significance  of  the  Absolution  given  by  the 
confessor,5  Julius  Kostlin  says:  "These  statements  of 
Luther's  are  in  several  ways  lacking  in  clearness."6 

I  must,  in  my  trouble,  Luther  says  elsewhere  of  Confession, 
seek  for  comfort  from  my  brother  or  neighbour,  and  "  whatever 
consolation  he  gives  me  is  ratified  by  God  in  heaven  ['  erunt 
sohita  in  ccelo  '  (Mat.  xviii.  18)]"  ;  "He  consoles  me  in  God's 
stead  and  God  Himself  speaks  to  me  through  him."  "  When  I 
receive  absolution  or  seek  for  comfort  from  my  brother,"  then 
"  what  I  hear  is  the  voice  of  the  Holy  Ghost  Himself."  "  It  is  a 
wonderful  thing,  that  a  minister  of  the  Church  or  any  brother 

1  Cp.  vol.  i.,  pp.  290  ff.,  379  ff.,  384  f.  ;   vol.  ii.,  p.  59  ff. 

2  Kostlin,   "  Luthers  Theologie,"   22,   p.   251  ;    "  Opp.   lat.   exeg.," 
9,  p.  23  ;    "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  26,  p.  220  ;   Erl.  ed.,  23,  p.  40  f.  ;   46, 
p.  123. 

3  "  An  den  Rat  zu  Nurnberg,   Gutachten  Luthers  und  Melanch- 
thons"  (April  18,  1533);    "Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  55,  p.  8  ("  Brief wechsel" 
9,  p.  292). 

4  Kostlin,  ibid.,  p.  252  f.  5  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  21,  p.  17  f. 
6  Kostlin,  ibid.,  p.  249. 

250         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

should  be  '  minister  regni  Dei  et  vitce  ceternce,  remissionis  pecca- 
torum.  .  .  ."l 

But  all  such  private  exercise  of  the  power  of  the  keys  not 
withstanding,  the  public  exercise  by  the  ordinary  ministers  of 
the  Church  was  also  to  be  held  in  honour  ;  it  was  to  take  place 
"  when  the  whole  body  of  the  Church  was  assembled."2  In  spite 
of  the  opposition  of  some  he  was  always  in  favour  of  the  general 
absolution  being  given  during  the  service.3  In  this  he  followed 
the  older  practice  which  still  exists,  according  to  which,  out  of 
devotion  and  not  with  any  idea  of  imparting  a  sacrament,  the 
"  Misereatur "  and  "  Indulgentiam "  were  said  over  the 
assembled  faithful  after  they  had  said  the  "  Confiteor."  He  also 
drew  up  a  special  form  for  this  general  confession  and  absolu 

But  even  such  public  Confession  was  not,  however,  to  be  made 
obligatory  ;  the  very  nature  of  Luther's  system  forbade  his 
setting  up  rules  and  obligations.  In  the  present  matter  Luther 
could  not  sufficiently  emphasise  the  Christian's  freedom,  although 
this  freedom,  as  man  is  constituted,  could  not  but  render  im 
possible  any  really  practical  results.  Hence  Confession,  private 
as  well  as  public,  was  not  to  be  prescribed,  so  much  so  that 
"  those  who  prefer  to  confess  to  God  alone  and  thereafter  receive 
the  Sacrament"  are  "quite  at  liberty  to  do  so."5  For  Con 
fession  was  after  all  merely  a  general  or  particular  confession 
of  trouble  of  conscience  or  sinfulness,  made  in  order  to  obtain 
an  assurance  that  the  sins  were  all  forgiven. 

It  was,  however,  of  the  utmost  importance  that  the  penitents 
should  declare  whether  they  knew  all  that  was  necessary  about 
Christ  and  His  saving  Word,  and  that  otherwise  they  should  be 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  44,  p.  107  ff.  ;  46,  p.  292  ;  "  Opp.  lat.  exeg.," 
11,  p.  136.  See  also  Kostlin,  ibid.,  p.  250.  Absolution  may  also  be  sent 
by  one  far  away,  as  Luther  wrote  to  Spalatin  :  "  Audi  et  crede  Us 
quce  Christus  per  me  tibi  loquitur.  Neque  enim  erro,  quod  scio,  aut 
satanica  loquor.  Christus  loquitur  per  me  et  iubet,  utfratri  tuo  in  communi 
fide  in  eum  credas.  Ipse  absolvit  te  ab  hoc  peccato  et  omnibus."  Aug. 
24,  1544,  "  Briefe,"  ed  De  Wette,  5,  p.  680.  2  Ibid.,  44,  p.  109. 

3  At  Nuremberg  Osiander  had  opposed  the  general  absolution,  and 
then,  in  spite  of  a   memorandum   from   Wittenberg   to  the   contrary 
(above,  p.  349,  n.  3),  persisted  in  his  opposition  so  that  the  magistrates 
made   another  application  to  Wittenberg  on  Sep.  27  ("  Brief wechsel," 
9,  p.  337)  and  again  got  a  similar  reply  ("  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  55,  p.  27  ; 
"  Brief  wechsel,"  9,  p.  343).     In  the  new  "  memorandum  "  it  was  also 
stated  that  the  public  and  the  private  absolution  were  real  absolutions  ; 
but  Osiander  was  not  to  be  compelled  to  give  the  general  absolution. 

4  "  Brief  wechsel,"  12,  p.  398.     Form  of  Absolution  dated  Feb.  15, 
1540,  for  the  Nurembergers.      The  editor  remarks  :    "  The  question 
able  point  in  this  form,  viz.  that  the  Absolution  was  attached  to  an 
eventuality  ('  should  God  to-day  or  to-morrow  call  one  of  you  from 
this  vale  of  tears  '),  and  might  thus  be  regarded  as  valid  only  in  this 
event,  can  merely  be  hinted  at  here." 

6  These  words  were  added  by  Luther  in  1538  to  his  "  Unterricht  der 
Visitatorn"  (1528);  "Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  26,  p.  220;  Erl.  ed.,  23, 
p.  40  f.  ;  Kostlin,  ibid.,  p.  251. 


instructed.  "  If  Christians  are  able  to  give  an  account  of  their 
faith,"  Luther  says  in  1540  of  the  practice  prevailing  at  Witten 
berg,  "  and  display  an  earnest  desire  to  receive  the  Sacrament, 
then  we  do  not  compel  them  to  make  a  private  Confession  or  to 
enumerate  their  sins."  For  instance,  nobody  thinks  of  compelling 
Master  Philip  (Melanchthon).  "  Our  main  reason  for  retaining 
Confession  is  for  the  private  rehearsal  of  the  Catechism."1 

In  1532,  amidst  the  disturbance  caused  by  Dionysius  Melander, 
the  Zwinglian  faction  gained  the  upper  hand  at  Frankfort  on  the 
Maine,  and  the  preachers,  supported  by  the  so-called  fanatics,  con 
demned  and  mocked  at  the  Confession,  which,  according  to  the 
Smaller  Catechism,  was  to  be  made  to  a  confessor,  to  be  duly 
addressed  as  "  Your  Reverence."  Luther,  in  his  "  Brieff  an  die 
zu  Franckfort  am  Meyn  "  (Dec.  1532),  accordingly  set  forth  his 
ideas  on  Confession,  in  what  manner  it  was  to  be  retained  and 
rendered  useful.2  "  We  do  not  force  anyone  to  go  to  Confession," 
he  there  writes,  "  as  all  our  writings  prove,  just  as  we  do  not 
enquire  who  rejects  our  Catechism  and  our  teaching."  He  had 
no  wish  to  drive  proud  spirits  "  into  Christ's  Kingdom  by  force." 
As  against  the  self-accusation  of  all  mortal  sins  required  in 
Popery  he  had  introduced  a  "  great  and  sublime  freedom  "  for 
the  quieting  of  "  agonised  consciences  "  ;  the  penitent  need  only 
confess  "  some  few  sins  which  oppress  him  most,"  even  this  is 
not  required  of  "  those  who  know  what  sin  really  is,"  "  like  our 
Pastor  [Bugenhagen]  and  our  Vicar,  Master  Philip."  "  But 
because  of  the  dear  young  people  who  are  daily  growing  up  and 
of  the  common  folk  who  understand  but  little,  we  retain  the 
usage  in  order  that  they  may  be  trained  in  Christian  discipline 
and  understanding.  For  the  object  of  such  Confession  is  not 
merely  that  we  may  hear  the  sins,  but  that  we  may  learn  whether 
they  are  acquainted  with  the  Our  Father,  the  Creed,  the  Ten 
Commandments  and  all  that  is  comprised  in  the  Catechism.  .  .  . 
Where  can  this  be  better  done,  and  when  is  it  more  necessary 
than  when  they  are  about  to  approach  the  Sacrament  ?  " 

"  Thus,  previously  [to  the  Supper],  the  common  people  are  to 
be  examined  and  made  to  say  whether  they  know  the  articles  of 
the  Catechism  and  understand  what  it  is  to  sin  against  them,  and 
if  they  will  for  the  future  learn  more  and  amend,  and  otherwise 
are  not  to  be  admitted  to  the  Sacrament."  "  But  if  a  pastor  who 
is  unable  at  all  times  and  places  to  preach  God's  Word  to  the 
people,  takes  advantage  of  such  time  and  place  as  offers  when 
they  come  to  Confession,  isn't  there  just  the  devil  of  a  row  !  As 
if,  forsooth,  he  were  acting  contrary  to  God's  command,  and  as  if 
those  fanatics  were  saints,  who  would  prevent  him  from  teaching 
God's  Word  at  such  a  time  and  place,  when  in  reality  we  are 
bound  to  teach  it  in  all  places  and  at  all  times  when  or  where 
soever  we  can."4 

1  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  185. 

2  "Werke,"   Weim.   ed.,   30,   3,  p.   558  ff.  ;    Erl.   ed.,   262,  p.   372 
("  Brief wechsel,"  9,  p.  251). 

3  P.  565  ff.  =  381  ff.  4  P.  567  f.  =  383,  385. 

252          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

This  instruction,  which  is  the  "  main  reason  "  for  retaining 
Confession,  is  to  be  followed,  according  to  the  same  letter,  by 
"  the  Absolutio  "  pronounced  by  the  preacher  in  God's  stead, 
i.e.  by  the  word  of  the  confessor  which  may  "  comfort  the  heart 
and  confirm  it  in  the  faith."  Of  this  same  word  Luther  says  : 
"  Who  is  there  who  has  climbed  so  high  as  to  be  able  to  dispense 
with  or  to  despise  God's  Word  ?  "* 

It  is  in  the  light  of  such  explanations  that  we  must 
appreciate  the  fine  things  in  praise  of  Confession,  so  fre 
quently  quoted,  which  Luther  says  in  his  letter  to  Frankfurt. 

Luther  goes  on  to  make  an  admission  which  certainly 
does  him  honour :  "  And  for  this  [the  consolation  and 
strength  it  affords]  I  myself  stand  most  in  need  of  Con 
fession,  and  neither  will  nor  can  do  without  it  ;  for  it 
has  given  me,  and  still  gives  me  daily,  great  comfort  when 
I  am  sad  and  in  trouble.  But  the  fanatics,  because  they 
trust  in  themselves  and  are  unacquainted  with  sadness,  are 
ready  to  despise  this  medicine  and  solace." 

He  had  already  said  :  "If  thousands  and  thousands  of 
worlds  were,  mine,  I  should  still  prefer  to  lose  everything 
rather  than  that  one  little  bit  of  this  Confessio'n  should  be 
lost  to  the  churches.  Nay,  I  would  prefer  the  Popish 
tyranny,  with  its  feasts,  fasts,  vestments,  holy  places, 
tonsures,  cowls  and  whatever  I  might  bear  without  damage 
to  the  faith,  rather  than  that  Christians  should  be  deprived 
of  Confession.  For  it  is  the  Christian's  first,  most  necessary 
and  useful  school,  where  he  learns  to  understand  and  to 
practise  God's  Word  and  his  faith,  which  cannot  be  so 
thoroughly  done  in  public  lectures  and  sermons."2 

"  Christians  are  not  to  be  deprived  of  Confession."  On 
this,  and  for  the  same  reasons,  Luther  had  already  insisted 
in  the  booklet  on  Confession  he  had  published  in  1529.  The 
booklet  first  appeared  as  an  appendix  to  an  edition  of  his 
Greater  Catechism  published  in  that  year,  and  is  little  more 
than  an  amended  version  of  Rorer's  notes  of  his  Palm 
Sunday  sermon  in  1529. 3 

In  this  booklet  on  Confession,  also  entitled  "  A  Short 
Exhortation  to  Confession,"4  he  says  of  the  "secret  Con 
fession  made  to  a  brother  alone  "  :  "  Where  there  is  some 
thing  special  that  oppresses  or  troubles  us,  worries  us  and 

1  P.  569  =  386.  2  P.  569  =  385. 

3  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  29,  p.  133  f. 

4  Ibid.,  Erl.  ed.,  23,  p.  87  ff. 


will  give  us  no  rest,  or  if  we  find  ourselves  halting  in  our 
faith,"  we  should  "  complain  of  this  to  a  brother  and  seek 
counsel,  consolation  and  strength."  "  Where  a  heart  feels 
its  sinfulness  and  is  desirous  of  comfort,  it  has  here  a  sure 
refuge  where  it  may  find  and  hear  God's  Word."  "  Who 
ever  is  a  Christian,  or  wishes  to  become  one,  is  hereby  given 
the  good  advice  to  go  and  fetch  the  precious  treasure." 
"  Thus  we  teach  now  what  an  excellent,  costly  and  consoling 
thing  Confession  is,  and  admonish  all  not  to  despise  so  fine 
a  possession."  As  the  "  parched  and  hunted  hart  "  panteth 
after  the  fountains,  so  ought  our  soul  to  pant  after  "  God's 
Word  or  Absolution." — The  zeal  expected  of  the  penitent  is 
well  described,  but  here,  as  is  so  often  the  case  with  Luther, 
we  again  find  the  mistake  resulting  from  his  false  idealism, 
viz.  that,  after  doing  away  with  all  obligation  properly  so 
called,  personal  fervour  and  the  faith  he  preached  would 
continue  to  supply  the  needful. 

Before  Luther's  day  Confession  had  been  extolled  on 
higher  grounds  than  merely  on  account  of  the  comfort  and 
instruction  it  afforded.  It  had  been  recognised  as  a  true 
Sacrament  instituted  by  Christ  for  the  forgiveness  of  sins, 
and  committed  by  Him  with  the  words  "  Whose  sins  you 
shall  forgive,"  etc.  (John  xx.  22  f.),  to  the  exercise  of  duly 
appointed  ministers.  Yet  the  earlier  religious  literature 
had  not  been  behindhand  in  pointing  out  how  great  a  boon 
it  was  for  the  human  heart  to  be  able  to  pour  its  troubles 
into  the  ears  of  a  wise  and  kindly  guide,  who  could  impart 
a  true  absolution  and  pour  the  balm  of  consolation  and  the 
light  of  instruction  into  the  soul  kneeling  humbly  before 
him  as  God's  own  representative. 

As  regards  the  instruction,  on  which  Luther  lays  such  stress  as 
the  "  main  reason  "  for  retaining  the  practice,  the  Catholic 
Confession  handbooks  of  that  period,  particularly  some  recently 
re-edited,  show  how  careful  the  Church  was  about  this  matter. 

Franz  Falk  has  recently  made  public  three  such  handbooks,  of 
which  very  few  copies  were  hitherto  known.1  One  of  these  is  the 
work  of  a  priest  of  Frankfurt  a.  M.,  Magister  Johann  Wolff  (Lupi), 
and  was  first  published  in  1478  ;  the  second  is  a  block-book 
containing  a  preparation  for  Confession,  probably  printed  at 
Nuremberg  in  1475  ;  the  third  an  Augsburg  manual  of  Con- 

1  "  Drei  Beichtbiichlein  nach  den  Zehngeboten  aus  der  Fruhzeit 
der  Buchdrackerkunst,"  Monster,  1907  ("  Reformationsgesch.  Studien 
und  Texte,"  Hft.  2). 

254         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

fession  printed  in  1504.  The  last  two  were  intended  more  for 
popular  use  and  give  the  sins  in  the  order  of  the  Decalogue. 
The  first,  by  Wolff,  pastor  of  St.  Peter's  at  Frankfurt,  consists  of 
two  parts,  one  for  children,  the  other  for  "  older  people,  learned 
or  unlearned,"  containing  examinations  of  conscience,  very 
detailed  and  explicit  in  some  parts,  into  the  sins  against  the  Ten 
Commandments,  the  seven  capital  sins,  and,  finally,  the  sins 
committed  with  "  the  five  outward  senses."  The  examina 
tion  of  conscience  for  children,  for  the  sake  of  instruction  also 
includes  the  Our  Father,  Hail  Mary,  Creed  and  Decalogue,  also 
the  list  of  capital  sins,  Sacraments  and  Eight  Beatitudes.  The 
copious  Latin  tags  from  Peter  Lombard,  Scotus,  Gerson,  etc., 
point  to  the  manual  having  been  meant  primarily  as  a  guide  for 
the  clergy,  on  whom  an  appendix  also  impresses  the  advantages 
of  a  frequent  explanation  of  the  Ten  Commandments  from  the 
pulpit.  Schoolmasters  too,  so  the  manual  says,  should  also  be 
urged  to  instruct  on  the  Commandments  those  committed  to 
their  care.  Luther's  manual  on  Confession  contains  so  many 
echoes  of  Wolff's  work  (or  of  other  Catholic  penitential  hand 
books)  that  one  of  Wolff's  Protestant  editors  remarks  :  "  Such 
agreement  is  certainly  more  than  a  mere  chance  coincidence," 
and,  further  :  "It  is  difficult  in  view  of  the  great  resemblance  of 
thought,  and  in  places  even  of  language,  not  to  assume  that  the 
younger  man  is  indebted  to  his  predecessor."1  However  this 
may  be,  Wolff's  work,  though-  holding  no  very  high  place  as 
regards  either  arrangement  or  style,  clearly  expresses  the  general 
trend  of  the  Catholic  teaching  on  morality  at  that  time,  and 
refutes  anew  the  unfounded  charge  that  religious  instruction  for 
the  people  was  entirely  absent. 

"We  see  how  mature  and  keen  in  many  particulars  was  the 
moral  sense  in  that  much-abused  period.  .  .  .  The  author  is 
not  satisfied  with  merely  an  outward,  pharisaical  righteousness, 
but  the  spirit  is  what  he  everywhere  insists  on.  .  .  .  He  also 
defines  righteousness  ...  as  absolute  uprightness  of  spirit,  thank 
ful,  devoted  love  of  God  and  pure  charity  towards  our  neigh 
bour,  free  from  all  ulterior  motive."  These  words,  of  the  "  Leip- 
ziger  Zeitung  "  ("  Wissenschaftliche  Beilage,"  No.  10,  1896), 
regarding  the  Leipzig  "  Beichtspiegel  "  of  1495,  Falk  applies 
equally  to  Wolff's  handbook  for  Confession.2 

This  latter  instruction  dwells  particularly  on  the  need  of 
"  contrition,  sorrow  and  grief  for  sin  "  on  the  part  of  the  penitent. 

1  F.   W.   Battenberg,   "  Beichtbiichlein  dcs  Mag.   Wolff,"   Giessen, 
1907,  pp.  189,  205. 

2  Falk,  ibid.,  p.  13.    Falk  also  quotes  (p.  14)  a  noteworthy  observa 
tion  of  Luthmer's  ("  Zeitschr.  fur  christl.  Kunst,"  9,  p.  5) :    "The  close 
of  the  15th  century  was  the  time  when  the  Decalogue,  as  the  starting- 
point  for  Confession,  was  most  frequently  commentated,  described  and 
depicted  pictorially.     For  those  unable  to  read,  tables  with  the  Com 
mandments  luridly  pictured   hung  in  the   churches,    schools  and  re 
ligious  institutions,  and   the   books  on  this   subject  were  abundantly 
illustrated  with  woodcuts." 


N.  Paulus,  in  several  articles,  has  furnished  superabundant  proof, 
that  in  those  years,  which  some  would  have  us  believe  were 
addicted  to  the  crassest  externalism,  the  need  of  contrition  in 
Confession  was  earnestly  dwelt  upon  in  German  religious  writings. 1 

Luther,  however,  even  in  the  early  days  of  his  change, 
under  the  influence  of  a  certain  distaste  and  prejudice  in 
favour  of  his  own  pet  ideas,  had  conceived  an  aversion  for 
Confession.  Here  again  his  opposition  was  based  on  purely 
personal,  psychological  grounds.  The  terrors  he  had  en 
dured  in  Confession  owing  to  his  curious  mental  constitu 
tion,  his  enmity  to  all  so-called  holiness-by-works — leading 
him  to  undervalue  the  Church's  ancient  institution  of 
Confession — and  the  steadily  growing  influence  of  his 
prejudices  and  polemics,  alone  explain  how  he  descended 
so  often  to  the  most  odious  and  untrue  misrepresentations 
of  Confession  as  practised  by  the  Papists. 

What  in  the  depths  of  his  heart  he  really  desired,  and 
what  he  openly  called  for,  viz.  a  Confession  which  should 
heal  the  wounds  of  the  soul  and,  by  an  enlightened  faith, 
promote  moral  betterment — that,  alas,  he  himself  had 
destroyed  with  a  violent  hand. 

In  his  letter  to  Frankfurt  quoted  above  he  abuses  the 
Catholic  system  of  Confession  because  it  requires  the 
admission  of  all  mortal  sins,  and  calls  it  "  a  great  and  ever 
lasting  martyrdom,"  "  trumped  up  as  a  good  work  whereby 
God  may  be  placated."  He  calumniates  the  Catholic  past 
by  declaring  it  did  nothing  but  "  count  up  sins  "  and  that 
"  the  insufferable  burden,  and  the  impossibility  of  obeying 
the  Papal  law  caused  such  fear  and  distress  to  timorous  souls 
that  they  were  driven  to  despair."  And,  in  order  that  the 
most  odious  charge  may  not  be  wanting,  he  concludes  : 
"  This  brought  in  money  and  goods,  so  that  it  became  an 
idol  throughout  the  whole  world,  but  it  was  no  doctrine, 
examination  or  exercise  leading  to  the  confession  and 
acknowledgment  of  Christ."2  The  fables  which  he  bolstered 

"  Die  Reue  in  den  deutschen  Beichtschriften  des  ausgehenden 
MA.,"  in  "Zeitschr.  fur  kath.  Theol.,"  28,  1904,  pp.  1-36.  "  In  den 
deutschen  Erbauungsschriften  des  ausgehenden  MA.,"  ibid.,  pp.  440-485. 
"  In  den  deutschen  Sterbebtichlein  des  ausgehenden  MA.,"  ibid., 
pp.  682-698. — Cp.  also,  Luzian  Pfleger,  "  Die  Reue  in  der  deutschen 
Dichtung  des  MA."  ("  Wiss.  Beil.  zur  Germania,"  1910,  Nos.  45-47). 

2  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  30,  3,  pp.  566,  568  f.  ;  Erl.  ed.,  262,  pp.  382, 

256          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

up  on  certain  abuses,  of  which  even  the  Papal  penitentiary 
was  guilty,  were  only  too  readily  believed  by  the  masses.1 

Church  Music. 

In  order  to  enliven  the  church  services  Luther  greatly 
favoured  congregational  singing.  Of  his  important  and 
successful  labours  in  this  direction  we  shall  merely  say  here, 
that  he  himself  composed  canticles  instinct  with  melody 
and  force,  which  were  either  set  to  music  by  others  or  sung 
to  olden  Catholic  tunes,  and  became  hugely  popular  among 
Protestants,  chiefly  because  their  wording  expresses  so  well 
the  feelings  of  the  assembled  congregation.  One  of  Luther's 
Hymnbooks,  with  twenty-four  hymns  composed  by  himself, 
appeared  in  1524.2 

Music,  particularly  religious  music,  he  loved  and  cherished, 
yielding  himself  entirely  to  the  enjoyment  of  its  inspiring 
and  ennobling  influence.  As  a  schoolboy  he  had  earned 
his  bread  by  singing ;  at  the  University  he  delighted  his 
comrades  by  his  playing  on  the  lute  ;  later  he  never  willingly 
relinquished  music,  and  took  care  that  the  hours  of  recrea 
tion  should  be  gladdened  by  the  singing  of  various  motets.3 
Music,  he  said,  dispelled  sad  thoughts  and  was  a  marvellous 
cure  for  melancholy.  In  his  Table-Talk  he  describes  the 
moral  influence  of  music  in  language  truly  striking.4  "  My 
heart  overflows  and  expands  to  music  ;  it  has  so  often 
refreshed  and  delivered  me  amidst  the  worst  troubles,"  thus 
to  the  musician  Senfl  at  Munich  \vhen  asking  him  to  com 
pose  a  motet.5  He  supplied  an  Introduction  in  the  shape  of 
a  poem  entitled  "  Dame  Music  "  to  Johann  Walther's  "  The 
Praise  and  Prize  of  the  lovely  art  of  Music  "  (1538).  It 
commences  :6  There  can  be  no  ill-will  here — Where  all  sing 
with  voices  clear — Hate  or  envy,  wrath  or  rage, — When 
sweet  strains  our  minds  engage.  Being  himself  conversant 
with  musical  composition,  he  took  pleasure  in  Walther's 

1  Cp.  on  the  abuses  of  the  Penitentiary  and  for  an  elucidation  of 
certain  misunderstandings,  E.  G  oiler,  "  Die  papstl.  Ponitentiaric  von 
ihrem  Ursprung  bis  .   .  .  Pius  V.,"  2  vols.,  Rome,  1907-1911. 

2  More  on  Luther  and  Hymnology  in  vol.  v.,  xxxiv.,  4. 

3  See    Mathesius,    "  Tischreden,"    pp.    Ill,    150,    389:     "  eyregias 
cantilenas  post  ccenam  cecinerunt."     He  himself  on  one  occasion  sung 
"  octavo  tono,"  ibid.,  p.  332  ;   cp.  p.  391. 

4  Cp.,  e.g.,  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  60,  p.  307  ;    "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil, 
3,  p.  148  seq. 

5  See  vol.  ii.,  p.  171  f.      6  The  whole  in  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  503. 

A   MAN   OF   FEELING  257 

description  of  counterpoint  and  in  his  ingenious  comparison 
of  the  sequence  of  melodies  to  a  troop  of  boys  at  play. 

Grauert  admirably  groups  together  "  Luther's  poetic 
talent,  the  gift  of  language,  which  enabled  him  so  to  master 
German,  his  work  for  German  hymnology,  his  enthusiastic 
love  of  music,  of  which  he  well  knew  the  importance  as  a 
moral  factor,  and  his  familiarity  with  the  higher  forms  of 
polyphonic  composition."  He  also  remarks  quite  rightly 
that  these  favourable  traits  had  been  admitted  unreservedly 
by  Johannes  Janssen.1 

2.  Emotional  Character  and  Intellectual  Gifts 
The  traits  mentioned  above  could  hardly  be  duly  appreci 
ated    unless    we    also    took    into    account    certain    natural 
qualities  in  Luther  from  which  his  depth  of  feeling  sprang. 

A  Catholic  has  recently  called  him  an  "  emotional  man," 
and,  so  far  as  thereby  his  great  gifts  of  intellect  and  will  are 
not  called  into  question,  the  description  may  be  allowed  to 
stand.2  Especially  is  this  apparent  in  his  peculiar  humour, 
which  cannot  fail  to  charm  by  its  freshness  and  spontaneity 
all  who  know  his  writings  and  his  Table-Talk,  even  though 
his  witticisms  quite  clearly  often  served  to  screen  his  bitter 
vexation,  or  to  help  him  to  react  against  depression,  and  were 
frequently  disfigured  by  obscenity  and  malice.3  It  is  a  more 
grateful  task  to  observe  the  deep  feeling  expressed  in  his 
popular  treatment  of  religious  topics.  Johannes  Janssen 
declares  that  he  finds  in  him  "  more  than  once  a  depth  of 
religious  grasp  which  reminds  one  of  the  days  of  German 
mysticism,"4  while  George  Evers,  in  a  work  otherwise 
hostile  to  Luther,  admits  :  "  We  must  acknowledge  that  a 
truly  Christian  credulity  peeps  out  everywhere,  and,  par 
ticularly  in  the  Table-Talk,  is  so  simple  and  childlike  as  to 
appeal  to  every  heart."  Evers  even  adds  :  "  His  religious 
life  as  pictured  there  gives  the  impression  of  a  man  of 

1  Grauert,  "  Heinrich  Denifle,"2  1906,  p.  7. 

2  "  He  possessed  all  the  gifts  which  go  to  make  an  emotional  man, 
as  is  apparent  everywhere  ;    depth,  however,  and  true  inwardness  were 
not  his."     A.  M.  Weiss,  "  Lutherpsychologie,"2  p.  223.     What  he  says 
of  Luther's  "  depth  "  must  be  read  in  the  light  of  what  is  said  in  the 
text  above. 

3  See  vol.  v.,  xxxi.,  5.  4  Above,  p.  244. 

5  Evers,  "  Martin  Luther,"  6,  p.  701.     Further  details  on  Luther's 
prayers  below,  p.  274  ff. 

IV.— S 

258          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

The  circumstantial  and  reliable  account  given  by  Johann 
Cochlacus  of  an  interview  which  he  had  with  Luther  at 
Worms  in  1521  gives  us  a  certain  glimpse  into  the  latter's 
feelings  at  that  critical  juncture.  After  holding  a  lengthy 
disputation  together,  the  pair  withdrew  into  another  room 
where  Cochlacus  implored  his  opponent  to  admit  his  errors 
and  to  make  an  end  of  the  scandal  he  was  giving  to  souls. 
Both  were  so  much  moved  that  the  tears  came  to  their  eyes. 
"  I  call  God  to  witness,"  writes  Cochlaeus,  "  that  I  spoke  to 
him  faithfully  and  with  absolute  conviction."  He  pointed 
out  to  him  as  a  friend  how  willing  the  Pope  and  all  his 
opponents  were  to  forgive  him  ;  he  was  perfectly  ready  to 
admit  and  condemn  the  abuses  in  connection  with  the 
indulgences  against  which  Luther  had  protested  ;  his 
religious  apostasy  and  the  revolt  of  the  peasants  whom  he 
was  leading  astray  were,  however,  a  different  matter.  The 
matter  was  frankly  discussed  between  the  two,  partly  in 
German,  partly  in  Latin.  Luther  finally  mastered  the 
storm  obviously  raging  within  and  brought  the  conversation 
to  an  end  by  stating  that  it  did  not  rest  with  him  to  undo 
what  had  been  done,  and  that  greater  and  more  learned  men 
than  he  were  behind  it.  On  bidding  him  farewell,  Cochkeus 
assured  him  with  honest  regret  that  he  would  continue  the 
literary  feud  ;  Luther,  for  his  part,  promised  to  answer  him 

Luther's  mental  endowments  were  great  and  unique. 

Nature  had  bestowed  on  him  such  mental  gifts  as  must 
astonish  all,  the  more  they  study  his  personality.  His 
extraordinary  success  was  due  in  great  part  to  these  rare 
qualities,  which  were  certainly  calculated  to  make  of  him  a 
man  truly  illustrious  had  he  not  abused  them.  His  lively 
reason,  quick  grasp  and  ready  tongue,  his  mind,  so  well 
stocked  with  ideas,  and,  particularly,  the  inexhaustible 
fertility  of  his  imagination,  allowing  him  to  express  himself 
with  such  ease  and  originality,  enchanted  all  who  came  into 
contact  with  him. 

Pollich  of  Mellerstadt,  one  of  the  most  highly  respected  Pro 
fessors  of  the  Wittenberg  University,  said  of  Luther,  when  as  yet 

1  The  account  by  Cochlseus,  taken  from  a  special  print  of  1540 
"of  which  sufficient  account  has  hardly  been  made,"  in  Enders, 
"  Luthers  Briefwechsel,"  3,  p.  174  ff.  New  edition  of  the  "  Colloqium 
Cochlcei,"  by  J.  Greving,  in  "  Flugschriften  aus  den  ersten  Jahren 
der  Reformation,"  4,  Hft.  3,  Leipzig,  1910. 


the  latter  was  scarcely  known  :  "  Keep  an  eye  on  that  young 
monk,  Master  Martin  Luther,  he  has  a  reason  so  fine  and  keen 
as  I  have  not  come  across  in  all  my  life  ;  he  will  certainly  become 
a  man  of  eminence."1  Jonas,  his  friend,  assures  us  that  others 
too,  amongst  them  Lang  and  Staupitz,  admitted  they  had  never 
known  a  man  of  such  extraordinary  talent.2  Urban  Rhegius, 
who  visited  him  in  1534,  in  the  report  he  gives  shows  himself 
quite  overpowered  by  Luther's  mind  and  talent  :  "  He  is  a 
theologian  such  as  we  rarely  meet.  I  have  always  thought  much 
of  Luther,  but  now  I  think  of  him  more  highly  than  ever.  For 
now  I  have  seen  and  heard  what  cannot  be  explained  in  writing 
to  anyone  not  present.  ...  I  will  tell  you  how  I  feel.  It  is  true 
we  all  of  us  write  occasionally  and  expound  the  Scriptures,  but, 
compared  with  Luther,  we  are  children  and  mere  schoolboys."3 
His  friends  generally  stood  in  a  certain  awe  of  his  greatness, 
though,  in  their  case,  we  can  account  otherwise  for  their  admira 
tion.  Later  writers  too,  even  amongst  the  Catholics,  felt  in  the 
imposing  language  of  his  writings  the  working  of  a  powerful  mind, 
much  as  they  regretted  his  abuse  of  his  gifts.  "  His  mind  was 
both  sharp  and  active,"  such  was  the  opinion  of  Sforza  Pallavicini, 
the  Jesuit  author  of  a  famous  history  of  the  Council  of  Trent  ; 
"  he  was  made  for  learned  studies  and  pursued  them  without 
fatigue  to  either  mind  or  body.  His  learning  seemed  his  greatest 
possession,  and  this  he  was  wont  to  display  in  his  discourse.  In 
him  felicity  of  expression  was  united  with  a  stormy  energy. 
Thereby  he  won  the  applause  of  those  who  trust  more  to  appear 
ance  than  to  reality.  His  talents  filled  him  with  a  self-reliance 
which  the  respect  shown  him  by  the  masses  only  intensified."4 
"  Luther's  mind  was  a  fertile  one,"  he  writes  elsewhere,  "  but  its 
fruits  were  more  often  sour  than  ripe,  more  often  abortions  of  a 
giant  than  viable  offspring."5  His  alert  and  too-prolific  fancy 
even  endangered  his  other  gifts  by  putting  in  the  shade  his  real 
intellectual  endowments.  "  His  imagination,"  Albert  Weiss 
truly  says,  "  was,  next  to  his  will,  the  most  strongly  developed  of 
his  inner  faculties,  and  as  powerful  as  it  was  clear.  Herein 
chiefly  lies  the  secret  of  his  power  of  language."6 

To  his  temperamental  and  intellectual  qualities,  which 
undoubtedly  stamped  his  works  with  the  impress  of  a 
"  giant,"  we  must  add  his  obstinate  strength  of  will  and  his 
extraordinary  tenacity  of  purpose. 

1  So  Jonas  declares  in  his  funeral  address  on  Luther.     "  Luthers 
Werke,"  ed.  Walch,  21,  p.  362*  ff. 

2  Ibid.  3  In  Uhlhorn,  "  Urbanus  Rhegius,"  1861,  p.  159  f. 

*  "  Storia  del  Concilio  di  Trento,"  1,  4,  Roma,  1664,  1,  p.  58.  Hefe 
we  read  :  "  Non  essendo  povero  di  letteratura,  ne  pareva  ricchissimo, 
perche  portava  tutto  il  suo  capitale  nella  punta  della  lingua." 

5  6,  10  (i.,  p.  691);  Denifle  ("Luther  und  Luthertum,"  I2,  p.  24) 
calls  Luther  "  not  merely  talented,  but  in  many  points  very  much  so." 
Ibid.,  p.  xxv.,  he  enumerates  Luther's  "  good  natural  qualities,"  which 
ho  is  ready  to  prize.  6  "  Lutherpsychologie,"2  p.  225. 

260          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

Were  it  possible  to  separate  his  will  from  his  aims  and 
means,  and  to  appreciate  it  apart,  then  one  could  scarcely 
rate  it  high  enough.  Thousands,  even  of  the  bravest,  would 
have  quailed  before  the  difficulties  he  had  to  face  both 
without  and  within  his  camp.  The  secret  of  his  success 
lay  simply  in  his  ability  to  rise  superior  to  every  difficulty, 
thanks  to  his  defiance  and  power  of  will.  Humanly  it  is 
hard  to  understand  how  all  attacks  and  defeats  only  served 
to  embolden  him.  Protestants  have  spoken  of  the  "  de 
moniacal  greatness  "  manifest  in  Luther,  have  called  him  a 
man  of  "  huge  proportions  and  power  "  in  whose  "  breast 
two  worlds  wrestled,"  and,  on  account  of  his  "  heroic 
character,"  have  even  claimed  that  history  should  overlook 
"  the  vices  proper  to  heroes."1 

Among  Catholic  writers  the  earlier  Dollinger,  for  all  his 
aversion  for  Luther's  purpose  and  the  weapons  he  employed, 
nevertheless  says  of  him  :  "If  such  a  one  is  justly  to  be 
styled  a  great  man,  who,  thanks  to  his  mighty  gifts  and 
powers,  accomplishes  great  things  and  brings  millions  of 
minds  under  his  sway — then  the  son  of  the  peasant  of  Mohra 
must  be  reckoned  among  the  great,  yea,  among  the  greatest 
of  men."2  Upon  the  disputed  definition  of  "  greatness  " 
we  cannot  enter  here.  (See  vol.  vi.,  xl.,  1.)  Yet,  in  view 
of  the  intellectual  gifts  lavished  on  Luther,  Dollinger's 
words  are  undoubtedly  not  far  away  from  the  mark,  par 
ticularly  when  we  consider  his  gigantic  .capacity  for  work 
and  the  amazing  extent  of  his  literary  labours,  distracted 
though  he  was  by  other  cares. 

We  have  already  had  occasion  to  give  the  long  list  of  the 
works  he  penned  in  1529  and  1530,3  and  we  may  add  some 
further  examples.  In  1521,  in  which  year  he  lost  over  five 
weeks  in  travelling,  not  to  speak  of  the  correspondence  and 
other  business  which  claimed  his  attention  in  that  exciting 
period  of  his  life,  he  still  found  time  to  write  more  than 
twenty  works  of  varying  length  which  in  the  Weimar 
edition  cover  985  large  octavo  pages  ;  he  also  translated  a 
book  by  Melanchthon  into  German,  commenced  his  transla 
tion  of  the  Bible  and  his  church  Postils.  In  1523  he  pro 
duced  no  less  than  twenty-four  books  and  pamphlets,  and, 

1  Seeberg,  "  Luther  und  Luthertum  in  der  neuesten  kath.  Beleuch- 
tung  "  (a  reply  to  Denifle),  1904. 

2  "  Luther,  eine  Skizze,"  p.  51  ;    "  KL."2  8,  col.  339. 

3  Vol.  iii.,  p.  298  f.  ;   and  vol.  ii.,  p.  160. 

ZEAL   FOR   WORK  261 

besides  this,  his  lectures  on  Deuteronomy  (247  pages  in  the 
Weimar  edition)  and  a  German  translation  of  the  whole 
Pentateuch.  He  also  preached  about  150  sermons,  planned 
other  works  and  wrote  the  usual  flood  of  letters,  of  which 
only  a  few,  viz.  112,  have  been  preserved,  amongst  them 
being  some  practically  treatises  in  themselves  and  which 
duly  appeared  in  print.  Even  in  1545,  when  already  quite 
broken  down  in  health  and  when  two  months  were  spent  in 
travelling,  he  managed  with  a  last  effort,  inspired  by  his 
deadly  hate,  to  compose  even  so  considerable  a  book  as  his 
"  Wider  das  Bapstum  zu  Rom  vom  Teuffel  gestifft,"  as  well 
as  other  smaller  writings  and  the  usual  number  of  private 
letters,  circulars,  and  memoranda."1  At  the  very  end  he 
told  his  friend,  the  preacher  Jacob  Probst,  that  he  meant  to 
work  without  intermission  though  old  and  weary,  with  a 
failing  eyesight  and  a  body  racked  with  pain. 

These  labours,  of  which  the  simple  enumeration  of  his 
books  gives  us  an  inkling,  even  the  most  fertile  mind  could 
have  performed  only  by  utilising  every  moment  of  his  time 
and  by  renouncing  all  the  allurements  to  distraction  and 
repose.  The  early  hours  of  the  morning  found  Luther 
regularly  in  his  study,  and,  in  the  evening,  after  his  conversa 
tion  with  his  friends,  he  was  wont  to  betake  himself  early 
to  bed  so  as  to  be  able  to  enjoy  that  good  sleep,  without 
which,  he  declared,  he  could  not  meet  the  demands  made 
upon  him. 

That,  however,  behind  all  his  fiery  zeal  for  work,  certain 
moral  influences  not  of  the  highest  also  had  a  share  is 
obvious  from  what  has  been  said  previously. 

3.  Intercourse  with  Friends.     The  Interior  of  the  former 

Augustinian  Monastery 

Hitherto  we  have  been  considering  the  favourable  traits 
in  Luther's  character  as  a  public  man  ;  turning  to  his 
quieter  life  at  Wittenberg,  we  shall  find  no  lack  of  similar 
evidences.2  We  must  begin  by  asking  impartially  whether 

1  Cp.  H.  Bohmer,   "Luther  im   Lichte   der  neueren   Forschung,"2 
p.  115. 

2  There   is  no  sufficient  ground  for  charging  the  earlier  Catholic 
accounts  of  Luther  with  having  said  nothing  of  his  better  side.      It  is 
true  that  in  self-defence,  and  following  the  usual  method  of  controversy, 
they  did  insist  rather  too  much  on  what  was  objectionable — the  Jesuits 
of  the  IGth  and  17th  centuries  being  no  exception  to  the  rule — without 

262          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

the  notorious  Table-Talk  does  not  reveal  a  better  side  of  his 

The  question  must  be  answered  in  the  affirmative  by  every 
unprejudiced  reader  of  those  notes.  Luther's  gifts  of  mind 
and  temperament,  his  versatility,  liveliness  of  imagination, 
easy  use  of  Scripture  and  insight  even  into  worldly  matters  ; 
further  his  rare  talent  of  simple  narration,  and  not  seldom 
the  very  subjects  he  chooses  give  a  real  worth  to  Luther's 
Table-Talk,  notwithstanding  all  that  may  be  urged  against 
it.  It  is  accordingly  the  historian's  duty  faithfully  to  portray 
its  better  side. 

The  more  favourable  side  of  the  Table-Talk. 

Any  comprehensive  judgment  on  the  Table-Talk  as  a 
whole  is  out  of  the  question  ;  with  its  changing  forms  and 
colours  and  its  treatment  of  the  subjects  it  is  altogether  too 

sufficiently  discriminating  between  what  was  true  and  what  was  false 
(B.  Duhr,  s.  j.,  "  Gesch.  der  Jesuiten  in  den  Landern  deutscher  Zunge," 
1907,  p.  681).  Luther  himself  was,  however,  partly  to  blame  for  this, 
owing  to  the  quantity  of  unfavourable  material  he  provided.  But, 
after  the  first  heat  of  battle  was  over,  even  in  the  days  of  Caspar 
Ulenberg,  the  Cologne  parish  priest,  who,  in  1589,  wrote  a  biography 
of  Luther,  there  have  always  been  numbers  of  Catholic  writers  ready 
to  admit  the  good  there  was  in  Luther.  At  the  present  day  appreciative 
passages  abound  both  in  general  encyclopaedias  and  in  handbooks 
written  for  students.  To  mention  some  examples,  H.  Briick  ("  Lehrb. 
der  KG.")  speaks  of  Luther's  "sparkling  imagination,  his  popular 
eloquence,  which  was  its  consequence,  and  of  his  indefatigable 
capacity  for  work";  also  of  his  "disinterestedness."  J.  Alzog  says 
("  Universalgesch.  der  christl.  Kirche  ")  :  "  He  did  not  lack  the  deeper 
religious  feeling  which  seeks  its  satisfaction."  J.  A.  Mohler  ("KG.") 
writes  :  "  He  may  be  compared  for  his  power  to  the  great  conquerors 
of  the  world  ;  like  them,  too,  he  knew  no  other  law  than  his  own  will." 
J.  v.  Dollinger  (as  yet  still  a  Catholic)  says  of  him  ("KL."  2),  that  he 
was  a  "  sympathetic  friend,  free  from  avarice  and  greed  of  money," 
and  ever  "  ready  to  assist  others  "  ;  "he  possessed  undeniably  great 
rhetorical  talent  in  dialectic  and  a  wonderful  gift  of  carrying  men 
away."  In  Herder's  "  Konvcrsationslexikon,"  53  (1905),  we  read  of 
Luther  :  "In  the  circle  of  his  friends  ...  he  knew  how  to  speak 
thoughtfully  of  matters  of  theology.  .  .  .  His  family  life  had  its  finer 
side  ...  he  was  a  staunch  advocate  of  conjugal  fidelity  in  his  sermons 
and  elsewhere.  .  .  .  What  he  taught  concerning  the  dignity  of  worldly 
callings  was  in  many  instances  quite  right  and  true.  ...  In  the  works 
he  intended  for  edification  he  gave  his  followers  stimulating  food  for 
thought,  drawn  from  the  treasure-house  of  the  truths  of  Christianity 
and  of  nature.  .  .  .  He  promoted  a  more  diligent  study  of  Holy 
Scripture  and  the  cause  of  positive  theology  to  much  effect.  His  art 
of  using  his  native  tongue  was  of  great  service  in  furthering  the 
language.  His  translation  of  the  whole  Bible  stands  as  a  linguistic 
monument  to  him.  .  .  .  The  powerful  hymns  he  composed  are  also 
treasured  by  the  whole  Protestant  world." 


kaleidoscopic.  Again,  in  conjunction  with  what  is  good  and 
attractive,  frivolous,  nay,  even  offensive  and  objectionable 
subjects  are  dealt  with,  for  which  the  reader  is  in  no  wise 

It  is  necessary  to  emphasise  the  fact — which  may  be  new 
to  some — that  to  regard  the  Table-Talk  as  a  hotch-potch  of 
foul  sayings  is  to  do  it  an  injustice.  Catholics,  as  a  matter  of 
course,  are  used  to  finding  in  anti-Lutheran  polemics 
plentiful  quotations  from  it  not  at  all  to  Luther's  credit ; 
of  its  better  contents,  a  knowledge  of  which  is  of  even 
greater  importance  in  forming  an  opinion  of  his  character, 
no  hint  is  contained  in  this  sort  of  literature.  Some  are  even 
ignorant  that  Protestant  writers  have  more  than  compen 
sated  for  this  undue  stress  on  the  unfavourable  side  of  the 
Table-Talk  by  the  attractive  selection  they  give  from  its 
finer  parts. 

In  point  of  fact  the  subject  of  Luther's  conversations  is, 
not  infrequently,  the  attributes  of  God ;  for  instance,  His 
mercy  and  love  ;  the  duties  of  the  faithful  towards  God  and 
their  moral  obligations  in  whatever  state  of  life  they  be 
placed  ;  hints  to  the  clergy  on  the  best  way  to  preach  or  to 
instruct  the  young;  not  to  speak  of  other  observations 
regarding  neighbourly  charity,  the  vices  of  the  age  and  the 
virtues  or  faults  of  great  personages  of  that  day,  or  of  the 
past.  Luther  was  fond  of  discoursing  on  subjects  which,  in 
his  opinion,  would  prove  profitable  to  those  present,  though 
often  his  object  was  merely  to  enliven  and  amuse  the 

The  tone  and  the  choice  of  his  more  serious  discourses  fre 
quently  show  us  that  he  was  not  unmindful  of  the  fact,  that 
his  words  would  be  heard  by  others  beyond  the  narrow  circle 
of  his  private  guests  ;  he  was  aware  that  what  he  said  was 
noted  down,  and  not  unfrequently  requested  the  reporters  to 
commit  this  or  that  to  writing,  knowing  very  well  that  such 
notes  would  circulate.2  At  times,  however,  he  seemed  to 
become  forgetful  of  this,  and  allowed  observations  to  escape 
him  wrhich  caused  many  of  his  oldest  admirers  to  regret  the 
publication  of  the  Table-Talk.  A  large  number  of  state 
ments  made  by  him  on  the  spur  of  the  moment  must, 
moreover,  not  be  taken  too  seriously,  for  they  are  either 

1  For  the  collections  of  the  Table-Talk  see  vol.  iii.,  p.  218  ff. 

2  See  vol.  iii.,  p.  223. 

264         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

in  contradiction  with    other  utterances   or   are  practically 
explained  away  elsewhere. 

Thus,  for  instance,  in  a  conversation  in  the  winter  of  1542-1543, 
occur  the  following  words  which  really  do  him  honour  :  "  God 
has  preserved  the  Church  by  means  of  the  schools  ;  they  it  is 
that  keep  the  Church  standing.  Schools  are  not  very  imposing 
as  to  their  exterior,  yet  they  are  of  the  greatest  use.  It  was  to 
the  schools  that  the  little  boys  owed  their  knowledge  of  the 
Paternoster  and  the  Creed,  and  the  Church  has  been  wonderfully 
preserved  by  means  of  the  small  schools."1 — Yet,  at  an  earlier 
date,  he  had  said  just  the  contrary,  viz.  that  before  his  day  the 
young  had  been  allowed  to  drift  to  wreck  and  ruin,  owing  to  entire 
lack  of  instruction. 

On  certain  religious  subjects  he  could  speak  with  deep  feeling.2 
Compare,  for  instance,  what  he  says  of  Christ's  intercourse  with 
His  disciples. 

"  In  what  a  friendly  way,"  Luther  remarks,  "  did  He  behave 
towards  His  disciples  !  How  charming  were  all  His  dealings  with 
them  !  I  quite  believe  what  is  related  of  Peter,  viz.  that,  after 
Christ's  Ascension,  he  was  always  weeping  and  wiping  his  eyes 
with  a  handkerchief  till  they  grew  quite  red  ;  when  asked  the 
cause  of  his  grief,  he  replied,  he  could  not  help  shedding  tears 
when  he  remembered  the  friendly  intercourse  they  had  had  with 
Christ  the  Lord.  Christ  indeed  treats  us  just  as  He  did  His 
disciples,  if  only  we  would  but  believe  it  ;  but  our  eyes  are  not 
open  to  the  fact.  It  was  a  real  wonder  how  they  [the  Apostles] 
were  so  altered  in  mind  at  Pentecost.  Ah,  the  disciples  must 
have  been  fine  fellows  to  have  been  witnesses  of  such  things  and 
to  have  had  such  fellowship  with  Christ  the  Lord  !  "3 

Immediately  after  this,  however,  we  hear  him  inveighing 
against  the  Pope  with  statements  incredibly  false,4  whilst,  just 
before,  in  another  conversation,  he  had  introduced  his  favourite 
error  concerning  Justification  by  Faith.5 

It  may  suffice  to  keep  to  the  dozen  pages  or  so6  from  which  the 
above  kindlier  samples  were  extracted,  to  become  acquainted 
with  the  wealth  of  good  interspersed  amongst  so  much  that  is 
worthless,  and  at  the  same  time  to  appreciate  how  lively  his 
mind  and  his  powers  of  observation  still  remained  even  when 
increasing  years  and  persistent  bad  health  were  becoming  a 
burden  to  him. 

As  to  the  way  in  which  his  then  sayings  were  handed  down,  we 
may  state,  that,  in  the  winter  of  1542-1543,  Caspar  Heydenreich, 

1  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  311. 

2  Cp.    the    emotion    which    accompanied    another    fine    utterance 
spoken  "  ex  pleno  et  accenso  corde  "  (Cordatus,   "  Tagebuch,"   p.   23). 
There  Luther  was  speaking  of  the  profundity  of  the  Word  of  God  and 
of  reliance  on  His  Promises.    See  also  below,  p.  265. 

3  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  309. 

*  Ibid.,  p.  311,  with  the  heading      "  Papce  iyrannis." 
6  Ibid.,  p.  310.  •  Ibid.,  pp.  310-322. 


who  had  already  officiated  as  pastor  of  Joachimstal,  was  present 
at  Luther's  table  and  wrote  down  these  and  other  remarks  as 
they  dropped  from  the  speaker's  lips  ;  they  were  afterwards 
incorporated  in  Mathesius'  collection.  In  the  original  they  are 
partly  in  Latin,  partly  in  German,  and  betray  not  the  slightest 
attempt  at  polish.  The  reason  that  we  thus  find  Latin  passages 
in  reports  of  German  conversations  is  that  the  reporter,  in  order 
to  take  down  more  rapidly  what  he  heard,  at  times  made  use  of 
shorthand,  then  only  employed  for  Latin.  Others  who  reported 
the  Table-Talk  had  recourse  to  the  same  device.  The  conse 
quence  is,  that,  in  the  recent  German  editions  of  the  Table- 
Talk,  we  find  in  one  and  the  same  conversation  some  sentences 
in  the  Old  German  Luther  actually  used,  and  others  in  present- 
day  German,  the  latter  being  merely  translations  from  the  Latin. 

After  discoursing  at  length  on  the  fact  that  schools  ought  to  be 
carefully  cherished  for  the  sake  of  the  coming  generation  of 
Church  teachers,  he  says  :  "  The  work  of  the  schools  is  not 
brilliant  in  the  eyes  of  the  world,  but  it  is  of  the  greatest  utility." 
(No.  609  ;  then  follows  the  praise  of  the  old  schools  already 
recorded.) — "Wealth  is  the  most  insignificant  thing  in  the 
world,  the  meanest  gift  in  God's  power  to  bestow  on  man.  What 
is  it  compared  with  the  Word  of  God  ?  Indeed,  what  is  it  com 
pared  with  bodily  endowments,  or  with  beauty,  or  with  the  gifts 
of  the  soul  ?  and  yet  people  fret  so  much  for  it.  Material,  formal, 
efficient  and  final  causes  here  fare  badly.  For  this  reason  the 
Almighty  usually  gives  riches  to  rude  donkeys  upon  whom  He 
bestows  nothing  else  "  (611). 

Luther  relates  incidentally  that  his  father  Hans,  who  died  at 
Mansfeld  in  1530,  when  asked  on  his  death-bed  whether  he 
believed  in  the  Apostles'  Creed,  replied  :  "  He  would  indeed  be  a 
scoundrel  who  refused  to  believe  that."  "  That,"  aptly  remarked 
Luther,  "  is  a  voice  from  the  old  world  "  ;  whereupon  Melanch- 
thon  chimed  in  :  "  Happy  those  who  die  in  the  knowledge  of 
Christ  as  did  your  [daughter]  Magdalene  [f  Sep.  20,  1542] ;  the 
older  we  grow  the  more  foolish  we  become.  .  .  .  When  we  grow 
up  we  begin  to  dispute  and  want  to  be  wise,  and  yet  we  are  the 
biggest  fools  "  (615). 

According  to  Luther,  God's  most  grievous  wrath  then  rested 
on  the  Jews.  They  are  blinded,  pray  fanatically  and  yet  are  not 
heard.  "  Oh,  dear  God,  rather  than  remain  silent  do  Thou 
punish  us  with  pestilence,  the  French  disease  and  whatever 
other  dreadful  maladies  the  soldiers  curse.  God  says  :  I  have 
stretched  out  My  hands  ;  come,  give  ear,  draw  nigh  to  Me  ! 
[The  Jews  reply]  :  We  won't.  [God  says]  :  You  have  Isaias  ; 
hear  him.  [They  scream]  :  Yah,  we  will  kill  him  !  [God  says]  : 
Here  is  My  Son  !  [They  reply]  :  Out  on  Him  !  Hence  Our  Lord 
God  now  treats  them  as  we  see.  That  is  how  abandoned  children 
fare,  who  refuse  to  obey  their  parents  and  are  therefore  deserted 
by  them.  No  one  has  ever  written  concerning  this  wrath  of  God, 
nor  is  anyone  able  to  do  so  ;  no  eloquence  can  plumb  the  depths 
of  this  wrath.  O  Heavenly  Father — [this  he  said  with  clasped 


hands] — allow  us  to  enjoy  the  sunshine  and  permit  us  not  to  fall 
away  from  the  Word  !  Just  fancy,  for  fifteen  hundred  years  the 
Jews  have  groaned  under  His  Wrath  !  And  what  will  be  the  end 
of  it  all  ?  Alas,  there  will  be  a  dreadful  scene  in  hell  !  "  (608). 

Against  the  Jews  he  was  very  bitter.  It  was  related  at  table, 
that,  in  spite  of  the  two  books  Luther  had  recently  published,  the 
Hebrews  stood  in  favour  with  the  Counts  of  Mansfeld,  and,  from 
their  synagogue,  had  even  dared  to  hurl  at  an  Eisleben  preacher 
the  opprobrious  epithet  of  Goim.  Luther  replied  that  if  he  were 
pastor  and  Court  Chaplain  there  like  Coolius,  or  even  a  simple 
preacher,  he  would  at  once  resign  his  post.  When  it  was  re 
marked  that  the  Jews  knew  how  to  curry  favour  with  the  great, 
his  comment  was  :  "  The  devil  can  do  much."  On  being  asked 
whether  it  would  be  right  to  box  the  ears  of  a  Jew  who  uttered  a 
blasphemy,  he  replied,  "  Certainly  ;  I  for  one  would  smack  him 
on  the  jaw.  Were  I  able,  I  would  knock  him  down  and  stab  him 
in  my  anger.  If  it  is  lawful,  according  to  both  the  human  and  the 
Divine  law,  to  kill  a  robber,  then  it  is  surely  even  more  permissible 
to  slay  a  blasphemer."  To  the  observation  of  one  of  his  guests 
that  the  Jews  boasted,  that,  of  the  two,  the  Christians  were  the 
worse  usurers,  Luther  said  :  "  That  is  quite  true.  At  Leipzigk 
there  are  greater  usurers  than  the  Jews.  But  a  distinction  must 
be  drawn."  Among  the  Jews  usury  is  made  the  rule,  whereas 
amongst  the  Christians  it  is  repressed.  "  We  preach  against  it 
and  are  heartily  opposed  to  it  ;  with  them  this  is  not  the  case  " 

In  a  similar  strain,  in  the  dozen  pages  under  consideration,  he 
touches  on  many  other  instructive  subjects,  whether  connected 
with  questions  of  the  day,  or  with  religion,  or  the  Bible.  He 
portrays  with  a  clear  hand  the  dominant  idea  of  the  Book  of  Job, 
in  comparison  with  which  all  the  dramatic  force  of  the  Greek 
plays  was  as  nothing  (616)  ;  he  expounds  the  narratives  of 
Christ's  Prayer  in  the  Garden  of  Olives,  where  He  suffered 
indescribable  pains  for  our  sins  (626)  ;  in  answer  to  a  query  he 
speaks  of  the  anointing  of  Our  Lord's  feet  by  Magdalene,  and 
observes,  referring  to  the  censure  drawn  from  Judas  by  his 
avarice  :  "  That  is  the  way  of  the  world  and  the  devil  ;  what 
should  be  blamed  is  praised,  and  what  should  be  praised  is 
blamed  "  (627).  "What  he  says  of  the  vast  number  of  the  slain, 
alluded  to  so  frequently  in  the  Old  Testament,  was  probably  also 
called  forth  by  some  questioner  (612).  Amidst  this  recur  new 
invectives  against  the  Jews  and  their  magic  ;  never  ought  we  to 
eat  or  drink  with  them  (619)  ;  also  against  the  Turks  and  their 
bigotry  and  unbelief  ;  the  latter  resembled  the  fanatics  in  that, 
like  them,  they  refused  to  doubt  their  revelations  ;  this  he  proved 
by  certain  instances  (620).  He  speaks  of  the  strong  faith  of 
simple  Christians  with  feeling  and  not  without  envy  (614).  He 
extols  the  power  of  prayer  for  others,  and  proves  it  not  merely 
from  Biblical  texts  and  examples,  but  also  from  his  own  experi 
ence  ;  "  we,  too,  prayed  Philip  back  to  life.  Verily  prayer  can 
do  much.  .  .  God  does  not  reward  it  with  a  certain,  fixed 


measure,  but  with  a  measure  pressed  and  running  over,  as  He 
says.  ...  A  powerful  thing  is  prayer,  if  only  I  could  believe  it, 
for  God  has  bound  and  pledged  Himself  by  it  "  (617). 

Dealing  with  astrology,  he  demonstrates  its  folly  by  a  lengthy 
and  very  striking  argument  ;  when  it  was  objected  that  the 
reformation  he  was  carrying  out  had  also  been  predicted  by  the 
stars  at  the  time  of  his  birth,  he  replied  :  "  Oh  no,  that  is  another 
matter  !  That  is  purely  the  work  of  God.  You  will  never 
persuade  me  otherwise  !  "  (625). 

As  to  practical  questions,  he  speaks  of  the  doings  of  the 
Electoral  marriage  courts  in  certain  cases  (621) ;  of  severity  in  the 
up-bringing  of  children  (624);  of  the  choice  of  godparents  for 
Baptism  (620) ;  of  the  authority  of  guardians  in  the  marriage  of 
their  wards  (613)  ;  and  of  what  was  required  of  those  who  dispensed 
the  Supper  (618). 

On  one  occasion,  when  the  conversion  of  the  Jews  at  the  end  of 
the  world  was  being  discussed,  the  "  Doctoress  "  (Catherine) 
intervened  in  the  conversation  with  a  Biblical  quotation,  but  her 
contribution  (John  x.  16)  was  rejected  in  a  friendly  way  by 
Luther  as  mistaken. 

In  these  pages  of  the  Table-Talk  unseemly  speeches  or 
expressions  such  as  call  for  censure  elsewhere  do  not  occur, 
though  the  Pope  and  the  Papacy  are  rej^H.tedly  made  the 
butt  of  misrepresentation  and  abuse  (610,  616,  619) ;  as 
was  only  to  be  expected,  we  find  here  again  Luther's 
favourite  assertion  that  the  Roman  doctrine  of  works  is  a 
gross  error  very  harmful  to  souls  (623)  ;  in  support  of 
his  opinion  Luther  gives  a  long  string  of  Bible  texts. 

Apart  from  the  abuse  just  referred  to  and  some  other 
details  these  few  leaves,  taken  at  haphazard  from  the  Table- 
Talk,  are  certainly  not  discreditable  to  Luther.  Beside 
these  might  moreover  be  placed,  as  we  have  already  ad 
mitted  elsewhere,  many  other  pages  the  contents  of  which 
are  equally  unexceptionable. 

It  is  naturally  not  the  task  or  duty  of  Catholic  contro 
versialists  to  fill  their  works  with  statements  from  the  Table- 
Talk  such  as  the  above  ;  they  would  nevertheless  do  well 
always  to  bear  in  mind  that  many  such  favourable  utter 
ances  occur  in  Luther's  works  with  which  moreover  the 
Protestants  are  as  a  rule  perfectly  familiar.  The  latter, 
indeed,  who  often  are  acquainted  only  with  these  better 
excerpts  from  Luther's  books,  sermons,  letters  or  Table- 
Talk,  are  not  unnaturally  disposed  to  view  with  suspicion 
those  writers  who  bestow  undue  prominence  on  unfavourable 
portions  of  his  works,  torn  from  their  context. 

268         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

Unless  Catholic  polemics  contrive  to  look  at  things  from 
their  opponents'  point  of  view,  their  success  must  always  be 
limited  ;  short  of  this  they  run  the  risk  of  being  accused  of 
being  ignorant  of  what  tells  in  Luther's  favour,  or  of  not 
giving  it  due  weight.  All  controversy  should  in  reality  be 
conducted  in  a  friendly  spirit,  and,  in  the  discussion  of 
Luther,  such  a  spirit  joined  with  a  broad-minded  apprecia 
tion  of  what  is  good  in  the  opposite  party  cannot  fail  to  be 
productive  of  happy  results.  How  far  Protestants  have 
acted  in  this  spirit  is,  alas,  plain  to  all  who  have  had  dealings 
with  them.  There  can  be  no  question  but  that  certain 
excesses  perpetrated  on  the  opposite  side  go  far  to  explain, 
if  not  to  excuse,  the  methods  adopted  by  some  of  the 
champions  of  Catholicism. 

Kindlier  Traits  Evinced  by  Luther. 

The  great  veneration  felt  for  Luther  by  most  of  his  pupils, 
particularly  by  those  who  were  intimate  with  him,  enables 
us  to  see  the  impression  his  talents  made  on  others.  It  is,  of 
course,  probabl:  lhat  their  mental  submission  to  him  was 
in  part  due  to  the  feeling,  that  it  was  an  exceptional  honour 
to  be  accounted  friends  of  a  man  famous  throughout  the 
world  and  so  distinguished  by  his  extraordinary  success  ;  yet 
it  is  equally  certain  that  it  was  his  own  peculiar  charm  which 
caused  not  merely  young  students,  such  as  those  who  noted 
down  the  Table-Talk,  but  even  mature  and  experienced 
men,  to  look  up  to  him  with  respect  and  affection  and 
voluntarily  to  subject  themselves  to  his  mind  and  his  will. , 
The  fact  is,  in  Luther  a  powerful  and  domineering  talent 
existed  side  by  side  with  great  familiarity  in  consorting  with 
others  and  a  natural  gift  of  making  himself  loved.  The 
unshakable  confidence  in  God  on  which  he  and  his  followers 
seemed  to  lean  in  every  reverse  they  met,  perhaps  impressed 
people  more  than  anything  else. 

"  His  earnestness,"  wrote  a  devoted  young  follower  of  his,  "  is 
so  tempered  with  gladness  and  friendliness  that  one  longs  to  live 
with  him  ;  it  seems  as  though  God  wished  to  demonstrate  how 
blissful  and  joyous  his  Evangel  is,  not  merely  by  his  teaching,  but 
even  by  his  conduct."  Thus  the  Swiss  student,  Johann  Kessler, 
who  became  acquainted  with  Luther  after  his  return  from  the 
Wartburg.1  Another  voice  from  the  same  period  enthusiastically 

1  In  his  "  Sabbata,"  ed.  Gotzinger  in  the  St.  Gallen  "  Mitteilungen 
zur  vaterland.  Gesch.,"  1869  ;  new  edition,  St.  Gallen,  1902,  p.  76  ff. 


extols  his  friendly  ways  and  his  winning  speech  in  his  dealings 
with  his  pupils,  also  the  power  of  his  words  "  which  cast  such  a 
spell  over  the  hearts  of  his  hearers  that  anyone,  who  is  not  made 
of  stone,  having  once  heard  him,  yearns  to  hear  him  again." 
Thus  his  disciple  Albert  Burrer.1 

Mathesius,  one  of  his  busier  pupils,  declares  :  "  The  man  was 
full  of  grace  and  the  Holy  Ghost.  Hence  all  who  sought  counsel 
from  him  as  a  prophet  of  God,  found  what  they  desired." 2  Often, 
he  remarks,  difficult  questions  from  Scripture  were  submitted  to 
him  (in  conversation  at  table)  which  he  answered  both  plainly 
and  concisely.  And  if  anyone  contradicted  him  he  took  no 
offence  but  skilfully  put  his  gainsayer  in  the  wrong.  The  Doctor 
knew  so  well  how  to  bring  in  his  stories  and  sayings  and  apply 
them  at  the  proper  juncture  that  it  was  a  real  pleasure  and 
comfort  to  listen  to  him.3  "  Amongst  his  other  great  virtues  he 
was  very  easily  contented,  and  also  extremely  kind."4 

Spangenberg,  Aurifaber,  Cordatus  and  other  pupils  were,  so 
to  speak,  quite  under  his  spell.  Hieronymus  Weller,  whom 
Luther  frequently  sought  to  encourage  in  his  fits  of  depression, 
remarked  indeed  on  one  occasion  that  the  difference  in  age,  and 
his  reverence  for  Luther,  prevented  him  from  speaking  and 
chatting  as  confidentially  as  he  would  have  liked  with  the  great 
man. 6  On  the  other  hand,  the  Humanist,  Peter  Mosellanus,  who 
was  at  one  time  much  attached  to  him  and  never  altogether 
abandoned  his  cause,  says  :  "In  daily  life  and  in  his  intercourse 
with  others  he  is  polite  and  friendly  ;  there  is  nothing  stoical 
or  proud  about  him  ;  he  is  affable  to  everyone.  In  company  he 
converses  cheerfully  and  pleasantly,  is  lively  and  gay,  always 
looks  merry,  cheerful  and  amiable  however  hard  pressed  by  his 
opponents,  so  that  one  may  well  believe  he  does  not  act  in  such 
weighty  matters  without  God's  assistance."6 

Melanchthon,  particularly  in  his  early  days,  as  our  readers 
already  know,  expressed  great  reverence  and  devotion  for  Luther. 
"  You  know,"  he  wrote  to  Spalatin  during  his  friend's  stay  at  the 
Wartburg,  "  how  carefully  we  must  guard  this  earthen  vessel 
which  contains  so  great  a  treasure.  .  .  .  The  earth  holds  nothing 
more  divine  than  him."7  After  Luther's  death,  in  spite  of  the 
previous  misunderstandings,  he  said  of  him  in  a  panegyric 
addressed  to  the  students  :  "  Alas,  the  chariot  of  Israel  and  the 
horseman  thereof,  who  ruled  the  Church  in  these  latter  years  of 
her  existence,  has  departed."8 

Luther  was  often  to  prove  that  the  strong  impression 
made  by  his  personality  was  alone  able  to  gain  the  day  in 

1  Burrer's  letter,  in  Baum,  "  Capito,"  1860,  p.  83. 

2  "  Historien,"  p.  147.  3  Cp.  ibid.,  pp.  142,  143. 

4  Ibid.,  p.  153'.  5  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  510. 

6  In  F.  S.  Keil,   "  Luthers  Lebensumstande,"   1,   1764,  p.   2.     Cp. 
Kostlin-Kawerau,  1,  p.  243  f. 

7  Kostlin-Kawerau,  1,  p.  442.    Cp.  above,  vol.  Hi.,  p.  322. 

8  "  Vita  Lutheri,"  in  "  Vitce  quattuor  reformatorum,"  p.  14. 

270          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

cases  of  difficulty,  to  break  down  opposition  and  to  ensure 
the  successful  carrying  out  of  hardy  plans.  Seldom  indeed 
did  those  about  him  offer  any  objection,  for  he  possessed 
that  gift,  so  frequently  observed  in  men  of  strong  character, 
of  exercising,  in  every  matter  great  or  small,  a  kind  of 
suggestive  influence  over  those  who  approached  him.  He 
possessed  an  inner,  unseen  power  which  seemed  to  triumph 
over  all,  .  .  .  even  over  the  claims  of  truthfulness  and 
logic  ;x  besides  this,  he  was  gifted  with  an  imposing  presence 
and  an  uncanny  glance.  He  was  by  no  means  curt  in  his 
answers,  but  spoke  freely  to  everyone  in  a  manner  calculated 
to  awaken  the  confidence  and  unlock  the  hearts  of  his 
hearers.  Of  his  talkativeness  he  himself  once  said  :  "I 
don't  believe  the  Emperor  [Charles  V.]  says  so  much  in  a  year 
as  I  do  in  a  day."2 

His  "  disinterestedness  which  led  him  to  care  but  little 
about  money  and  worldly  goods  "3  increased  the  respect 
felt  for  him  and  his  work.  So  little  did  he  care  about  heap 
ing  up  riches,  that,  when  scolding  the  Wittenbergers  on 
account  of  their  avarice,  he  could  say  that  "  though  poor, 
he  found  more  pleasure  in  what  was  given  him  for  his  needs 
than  the  rich  and  opulent  amongst  them  did  in  their  own 
possessions."4  So  entirely  was  he  absorbed  in  his  public 
controversy  that  .he  paid  too  little  attention  to  his  own 
requirements,  particularly  in  his  bachelor  days  ;  he  even 
relates  how,  before  he  took  a  wife,  he  had  for  a  whole  year 
not  made  his  bed,  or  had  it  made  for  him,  so  that  his  sweat 
caused  it  to  rot.  "  I  was  so  weary,  overworked  all  the  day, 
that  I  threw  myself  on  the  bed  and  knew  nothing  about  it."5 
He  was  never  used  to  excessive  comfort  or  to  indulgence 
in  the  finer  pleasures  of  the  table.  In  every  respect,  in 
conversation  and  intercourse  with  others  and  in  domestic 
life,  he  was  a  lover  of  simplicity.  In  this  he  was  ever  anxious 
to  set  a  good  example  to  his  fellow-workers. 

Although  he  frequently  accepted  with  gratitude  presents 

1  See  our  remarks  above,  p.  112  ff.,  on  the  way  he  came  to  believe  in 
the  truth  of  the  falsehoods  he  so  often  repeated  and  even  to  convince 
his  pupils  of  it  too. 

2  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  283. 

3  Jos.   Hundhausen,    "  Kircho   oder   Protestantismus,"   a   Catholic 
work,  Mayence,  1883,  p.  225. 

4  In  a  sermon  of  1528,  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  27,  p.  408  f. 
6  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  510. 


from  the  great,  yet  on  occasion  he  was  not  above  cautioning 
givers  of  the  danger  such  gifts  involved,  when  the  "  eyes  of 
the  whole  world  are  upon  us."1  In  1542,  when  there  was  a 
prospect  of  his  receiving  from  his  friend  Amsdorf,  the  new 
"  bishop  "  of  Naumburg,  presents  out  of  the  estates  of  the 
bishopric,  he  twice  wrote  to  him  to  refrain  from  sending  him 
anything,  even  a  single  hare,  because  "  our  courtly  centaurs 
[the  selfish  and  rapacious  nobles]  must  be  given  no  pretext 
for  venting  their  glowing  hate  against  us  on  the  trumped-up 
charge  that  we  were  desirous  of  securing  gain  through  you." 
"  They  have  gulped  down  everything  without  compunction, 
but  still  would  blame  us  were  we  to  accept  a  paltry  gift  of 
game.  Let  them  feed  in  God's  or  another's  [the  devil's] 
name,  so  long  as  we  are  not  accused  of  greed."2  Dollinger 
speaks  of  Luther  as  "a  sympathetic  friend,  devoid  of 
avarice  and  greed  of  money,  and  a  willing  helper  of  others."3 

He  was  always  ready  to  assist  the  poor  with  open-handed 
and  kindly  liberality,  and  his  friends  especially,  when  in 
trouble  or  distress,  could  reckon  on  his  charity. 

When  his  own  means  were  insufficient  he  sought  by 
word  of  mouth  or  by  letter  to  enlist  the  sympathy  of  others, 
of  friends  in  the  town,  or  even  of  the  Elector  himself,  in  the 
cause  of  the  indigent.  On  more  than  one  occasion  his  good 
nature  was  unfairly  taken  advantage  of.  This,  however, 
did  not  prevent  his  pleading  for  the  poor  who  flocked  to 
Wittenberg  from  all  quarters  and  were  wont  to  address 
themselves  to  him.  Thus,  for  instance,  in  1539  we  have  a 
note  in  which  he  appealed  to  certain  "  dear  gentlemen  "  to 
save  a  "  pious  and  scholarly  youth  "  from  the  "  pangs  of 
hunger  "  by  furnishing  him  with  30  Gulden  ;  he  himself  was 
no  longer  able  to  afford  the  gifts  he  had  daily  to  bestow, 
though  he  would  be  willing,  in  case  of  necessity,  to  con 
tribute  half  the  sum.4 

Many  of  the  feeble  and  oppressed  experienced  his  help  in 
the  law.  He  reminds  the  lawyers  how  hard  it  is  for  the 
poor  to  comply  with  the  legal  formalities  necessary  for 
their  protection.  On  one  occasion,  when  it  was  a  question  of 
the  defence  of  a  poor  woman,  he  says  :  "  You  know  Dr. 
Martin  is  not  only  a  theologian  and  the  champion  of  the 

1  See  vol.  ii.,  p.  133. 

2  To  Amsdorf,  Feb.  6  and  12,  1542,  "  Brief e,"  5,  pp.  432,  434, 
"  Luther,  eine  Skizze,"  p.  51  ;    "  KL.,"  82,  col.  339. 

4  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  495. 

272          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

faith,  but  also  an  advocate  of  the  poor,  who  troop  to  him 
from  every  place  and  corner  and  demand  his  aid  and  his 
intercession  with  the  authorities,  so  that  he  would  have 
enough  to  do  even  if  no  other  burden  rested  on  his  shoulders. 
But  Dr.  Martin  loves  to  serve  the  poor."1 

In  1527,  when  the  plague  reached  Wittenberg,  he  stayed 
on  in  the  town  with  Bugenhagen  in  order  at  least  to  comfort 
the  people  by  his  presence.  The  University  was  trans 
ferred  for  the  time  being  to  Jena  (and  then  to  Schlieben)  and 
the  Elector  accordingly  urged  him  to  migrate  to  Jena  with 
his  wife  and  family.  Luther  however  insisted  on  remain 
ing,  above  all  on  account  of  the  urgent  need  of  setting  an 
example  to  his  preachers,  who  were  too  much  preoccupied 
with  the  safety  of  their  own  families.  It  was  then  that  he 
wrote  the  tract  "  Ob  man  fur  dem  Sterben  fliehen  muge  " 
(Whether  one  may  flee  from  death),  answering  the  question 
in  the  negative  so  far  as  the  ministers  were  concerned.  In 
such  dire  trouble  the  flock  were  more  than  ever  in  need  of 
spiritual  help  ;  the  preachers  were  to  exhort  the  people  to 
learn  diligently  from  the  Word  of  God  how  to  live  and  how 
to  die,  also,  by  Confession,  reception  of  the  Supper,  recon 
ciliation  with  their  neighbours,  etc.,  to  "  prepare  them 
selves  in  advance  should  the  Lord  knock  speedily."2  He 
displayed  the  same  courage  during  the  epidemic  of  the 
so-called  "  English  sweat,"  a  fever  which,  in  1529,  broke 
out  at  Wittenberg,  and  in  other  German  towns,  and  carried 
off  many  victims.  Again  in  1538  and  in  1539  he  braved 
new  outbreaks  of  the  plague  at  Wittenberg.  His  wish  was, 
that,  in  such  cases,  one  or  two  preachers  should  be  specially 
appointed  to  look  after  those  stricken  with  the  malady. 
"  Should  the  lot  fall  on  me,"  he  says  in  1542,  "  I  should  not 
be  afraid.  I  have  now  been  through  three  pestilences  and 
mixed  with  some  who  suffered  from  it  ...  and  am  none 
the  worse."3  "  God  usually  protects  the  ministers  of  His 

1  To  Anton  Unruhe,  Judge   at   Torgau,  June   13,   1538,  "Werke," 
Erl.  ed.,  55,  p.  205  ("  Briefwechsel,"  11,  p.  371). 

2  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  23,  p.  323  ff.;    Erl.  ed.,  317  ff.     N.  Paulus 
("  Hist.-pol.  Bl.,"    133,   1904,  p.   201)  also  points  out  the  "  Courage 
which  Luther  showed  in  the  time  of  the  plague,"  also  his  "  liberality, 
his  cheerful,   sociable  ways,   how  easily  he  was  contented  and  how 
tirelessly  he  laboured."      George  Evers   ("  Martin  Luther,"   6,   p.   6) 
recognises,  amongst  many  other  good  qualities,  the  courage  he  showed 
during  the  plague. 

3  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  285. 


Word,"  he  writes  in  1538,  "  if  one  does  not  run  in  and  out 
of  the  inns  and  lie  in  the  beds  ;  confessions  there  is  no  need 
to  hear,  for  we  bring  the  Word  of  Life."1  The  fact  that  he 
could  boast  of  having  braved  the  plague  and  remained  at 
his  post  naturally  tended  to  increase  his  influence  with  his 

He  had  passed  through  a  severe  mental  struggle  previous 
to  the  epidemic  of  1529.  Only  by  dint  of  despairing  efforts 
was  he  able  to  overcome  his  terrors  of  conscience  concerning 
his  doctrine  and  his  own  personal  salvation.  This  inner 
combat  so  hardened  him  that  he  was  fearless  where  others 
were  terrified  and  fled.  Of  his  own  qualms  of  conscience  he 
wrote  to  a  friend  in  April,  1529  :  If  it  be  an  apostolic  gift 
to  fight  with  devils  and  to  lie  frequently  at  the  point  of 
death,  then  he  was  indeed  in  this  a  very  Peter  or  Paul, 
however  much  he  might  lack  the  other  apostolic  characters.3 
Here  we  have  the  idea  of  his  Divine  calling,  always  most 
to  the  front  in  times  of  danger,  which  both  strengthens 
him  and  enables  him  to  inspire  others  with  a  little  of  his 
own  confidence.  "  I  and  Bugcnhagen  alone  remain  here,"  he 
wrote  during  the  days  of  the  plague,  "  but  we  are  not  alone, 
for  Christ  is  with  us  and  will  triumph  in  us  and  shelter  us 
from  Satan,  as  we  hope  and  trust."4 

We  already  are  acquainted  with  some  of  his  admissions 
of  his  own  weakness  and  acknowledgments  of  the  greater 
gifts  and  achievements  of  others — confessions  which  have 
been  extolled  as  a  proof  of  his  real  humility. 

"  I  have  no  such  foolish  humility,"  so  he  says,  "  as  to  wish  to 
deny  the  gifts  God  has  bestowed  on  me.  In  myself  I  have  indeed 
enough  and  more  than  enough  to  humble  me  and  teach  me  that  I 
am  nothing.  In  God,  however,  we  may  well  pride  ourselves,  and 
rejoice  and  glory  in  His  gifts  and  extol  them,  as  I  myself  do  on 
account  of  my  German  Psalter  ;  for  I  studied  the  Psalter, 
thanks  be  to  God,  with  great  fruit  ;  but  all  to  the  honour  and 
glory  of  God  to  Whom  be  praise  for  ever  and  ever."  This  he  wrote 
to  Eobanus  Hessus,  the  poet,  in  a  high-flown  letter  thanking 
him  for  translating  the  German  Psalter  into  excellent  Latin.5 

1  Lauterbach,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  188. 
'  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  1,  p.  31. 

3  To  Justus  Jonas,  April  19,  1529,  "  Briefwechsel,"  7,  p.  87. 

4  To    Nicholas    Hausmann,    Aug.    20,     1527,     "  Briefwechsel,"     6, 
p.  77. 

*  Aug.  1,  1537,  "  Briefwechsel,"  11,  p.  254, 

IV.—  T 


Of  his  own  virtues  or  sinfulness  he  preferred  to  speak  humor 
ously,  as  his  manner  was.  Thus,  he  says,  for  instance,  in  1526, 
in  his  suppressed  "  Widder  den  Radschlag  der  Meintzischen 
Pfafferey,"  that  "  he  had  not  defiled  any  man's  wife  or  child," 
"  had  not  robbed  anyone  of  his  goods  .  .  .  nor  murdered  or 
assaulted  anyone  or  given  help  or  counsel  thereto  "  ;  his  sin 
consisted  in  "  not  pulling  a  long  face  but  in  insisting  on  being 
merry  "  ;  also  in  eating  meat  on  forbidden  days.  People  might 
defame  his  life,  but  he  was  not  going  to  heed  "  the  dirty  hog- 

His  statements  belittling  his  own  powers  and  achieve 
ments,  coming  from  a  man  whose  apparently  overmastering 
self-confidence  had,  from  the  beginning,  prepossessed  so 
many  of  his  followers  in  his  favour,  afford  a  subject  for 
psychological  study.  He  seems  the  more  ready  to  give  full 
play  to  his  confidence  the  more  he  feels  his  weakness  face 
to  face  with  the  menace  of  danger,  and  the  more  he  experi 
ences  in  the  depths  of  his  soul  the  raging  of  doubts  which  he 
attributes  to  the  devil. 

In  the  humble  admissions  he  makes  he  never  conceals  how 
much  he  stands  in  need  of  assistance.  He  does  not  hide 
from  himself  the  fact  that  he  dreads  outward  troubles,  and 
is  deficient  in  strong  and  exalted  virtue.  But  side  by  side 
with  his  faults,  he  is  fond  of  gazing  on  and  extolling  God's 
gifts  in  his  person.  His  peculiar  form  of  humility,  his 
prayer  and  his  trust  in  God  find  expression  in  certain 
utterances  and  experiences,  on  which  no  judgment  can  be 
passed  until  we  have  before  us  a  larger  selection  of  them, 
particularly  of  such  as  seem  to  be  less  premeditated. 

Prayer  and  Confidence  in  God. 

Luther's  strangely  undaunted  confidence  and  the  personal 
nature  of  his  reliance  on  God's  help  form  part  of  his  mental 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  65,  p.  26.  It  may  be  remarked  incidentally 
that  possibly  Luther  was  not  aware,  that,  not  long  before,  the  people 
of  Wittenberg,  though  no  longer  Catholic,  had  been  shocked  at  his 
eating  meat  on  fast  days.  In  1523  the  people,  who  still  kept  the  old 
custom  of  the  Church,  as  a  traveller  remarks,  were  disposed  to  regard 
the  overflow  of  the  Elbe  as  Heaven's  judgment  on  Luther's  and  his 
preachers'  laxity  in  the  matter.  See  the  account  of  Bishop  Dantiscus,  of 
Ermeland,  who  visited  Wittenberg  in  that  year,  in  Hipler,  "  Kopernikus 
und  Luther,"  Braunsberg,  1868,  p.  72  :  "I  heard  from  the  country 
people  on  my  way  much  abuse  and  many  execrations  of  Luther  and 
his  co-religionists,"  etc. 


He  sees  around  him  much  distress  and  corruption  and  exclaims  : 
"  Alas,  we  are  living  outwardly  under  the  empire  of  the  devil, 
hence  we  can  neither  see  nor  hear  anything  good  from  without." 
And  yet,  he  proceeds  in  his  usual  forced  tone,  "  inwardly  we  are 
living  in  the  kingdom  of  Christ,  where  we  behold  God's  glory  and 
His  grace  !  For  of  Christ  it  is  said  :  '  Rule  Thou  in  the  midst  of 
Thine  enemies.' '  "  Hatred  is  our  reward  in  this  world."  "Our 
reward  is  excessive  considering  the  insignificance  of  the  service 
we  render  Christ.  But  what  is  the  world,  its  anger,  or  its  prince  ? 
A  smoke  that  vanishes,  a  bubble  that  bursts,  such  is  everything 
that  is  opposed  to  the  Lord  Whom  we  serve  and  Who  works  in 
us."  With  these  words,  so  expressive  of  his  determination,  he 
directs  his  trusted  pupil,  Conrad  Cordatus,  to  enter  courageously 
upon  the  office  of  preacher  at  Stendal  in  the  March.1 

Again  and  again  he  seeks  to  reanimate  his  faith  and  confidence 
by  calling  to  mind  not  merely  God's  faithfulness  to  His  promises, 
but  also  his  own  personal  "  sufferings  "  and  "  temptations,"  the 
only  escape  from  which,  as  he  believed,  lay  in  the  most  obstinate 
and  presumptuous  belief  in  his  cause,  and  in  the  conviction  that 
God  was  constantly  intervening  in  his  favour. 

"  Not  only  from  Holy  Scripture,"  he  said  in  a  conversation  in 
1540,  "  but  also  from  my  violent  inner  combats  and  temptations 
have  I  learnt  that  Christ  is  God  incarnate,  and  that  there  is  a 
Trinity.  I  now  know  it  even  better  from  experience  than  by 
faith  that  these  articles  are  true.  For  in  our  greatest  temptations 
nothing  can  help  us  but  the  assurance  that  Christ  became  man 
and  is  now  our  intercessor  at  the  right  hand  of  the  Father.  There 
is  nothing  that  excites  our  confidence  to  such  a  degree.  .  .  .  God, 
too,  has  championed  this  article  from  the  beginning  of  the  world 
against  countless  heretics,  and  even  to-day  defends  it  against 
Turk  and  Pope  ;  He  incessantly  confirms  it  by  miracles  and 
permits  us  to  call  His  Son,  the  Son  of  God  and  true  God,  and 
grants  all  that  we  ask  in  Christ's  name. 'f  For  what  else  has  saved 
us  even  till  the  present  day  in  so  many  perils  but  prayer  to 
Christ  ?  Whoever  says  it  is  Master  Philip's  and  my  doing,  lies. 
It  is  God  Who  does  it  for  Christ's  sake.  .  .  .  Therefore  we  hold 
fast  to  these  articles  in  spite  of  the  objections  of  reason.  They 
have  remained  and  will  continue."2 

Luther  often  had  recourse  to  prayer,  especially  when  he 
found  himself  in  difficulty,  or  in  an  awkward  situation  from 
which  he  could  see  no  escape  ;  in  his  letters  he  also  as  a  rule 
asks  for  prayers  for  himself  and  for  the  common  cause  of 
the  new  Evangel.  It  is  impossible  to  take  such  requests  as 
a  mere  formality  ;  his  way  of  making  them  is  usually  so 
full  of  feeling  that  they  must  have  been  meant  in  earnest. 

In  1534  he  wrote  a  special  instruction  for  the  simple  and 

1  Letter  of  Dec.  3,  1544,  "  Briefe,"  p.  702. 

2  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  94. 

276          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

unlearned  on  the  way  to  pray.1  Many  parts  of  this  booklet 
recall  the  teaching  of  the  great  masters  of  prayer,  though 
unfortunately  it  is  imbued  with  his  peculiar  tenets. 

He  urges  people  to  pray  fervently  against  "  the  idolatry  of  the 
Turk,  of  the  Pope,  of  all  false  teachers  and  devil's  snares  "  ;  he 
also  mocks  at  the  prayers  of  the  "  parsons  and  monks,"2  unable 
to  refrain  from  his  bitter  polemics  even  in  an  otherwise  edifying 
work.  Yet  the  body  of  the  booklet  teaches  quite  accurately,  in  a 
fashion  recalling  the  directions  given  by  St.  Ignatius,  how  the 
Our  Father  and  other  daily  prayers  may  be  devoutly  recited,  with 
pauses  after  the  various  petitions  or  words,  so  as  to  form  a  sort  of 
meditation.  He  himself,  so  he  assures  his  readers,  was  in  the 
habit  of  "  sucking  "  in  this  way  at  the  Paternoster,  and  was  also 
fond  of  occupying  himself  with  a  similar  prayerful  analysis  of  the 

His  regular  daily  prayer  he  says  elsewhere  was  the  Our  Father, 
the  Creed  and  the  other  usual  formulas.3  "  I  have  daily  to  do 
violence  to  myself  in  order  to  pray,"  he  remarked  to  his  friends, 
"  and  I  am  satisfied  to  repeat  when  I  go  to  bed  the  Ten  Com 
mandments,  the  Our  Father  and  then  a  verse  or  two  ;  thinking 
over  them  I  fall  asleep."4  "  The  Our  Father  is  my  prayer,  I  pray 
this  and  sometimes  intermingle  with  it  something  from  the 
Psalms,  so  as  to  put  to  shame  the  vain  scoffers  and  false  teachers." 

It  must  not  be  overlooked,  however,  that  on  extraordinary 
occasions,  when  his  hatred  of  the  Papacy  was  more  than  usually 
strong  or  when  troubles  pressed,  his  prayer  was  apt  to  assume 
strange  forms.  His  abomination  for  the  Pope  found  vent,  as  he 
repeatedly  tells  us,  in  his  maledictory  Paternoster.5  When  in 
great  fear  and  anxiety  concerning  Melanchthon,  who  lay  sick  at 
Weimar,  he,  to  use  his  own  quaint  phraseology,  "  threw  down  his 
tools  before  our  God,"  to  compel  Him,  as  it  were,  to  render 
assistance.  Another  such  attempt  to  do  violence  to  God  is  the 
purport  of  a  prayer  uttered  in  dejection  during  his  stay  in  the 
fortress  of  Coburg,  which  Veit  Dietrich,  who  overheard  it,  gives 
us  in  what  he  states  were  Luther's  own  words  :  "I  know  that 
Thou  art  Our  God  and  Father  ;  hence  I  am  certain  Thou  wilt 
put  to  shame  all  those  who  persecute  Thy  children.  Shouldst 
Thou  not  do  so,  there  will  be  as  much  danger  for  Thee  as  for  us. 
This  is  Thy  cause,  and  we  only  took  it  up  because  we  knew  Thou 
wouldst  defend  it,"  etc.6  This  intimate  friend  of  Luther's  also 

1  "  Einfoltige  Weise  zu  beten,"  "Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  23,  p.  215  ff. 

2  Pp.    217,    221    f.    The    booklet  was   dedicated    to    Master   Peter 
Balbier.     This  master,  after  having  stabbed  in  anger  a  foot-soldier,  was 
sentenced  to  death.     Luther's  intercession  procured  the  commutation 
of  the  sentence  into  one  of  banishment. 

3  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  59,  p.  (>,  "  Tischreden."     The  whole  section  in 
question,  "  Tischreden  vom  Gebete,"  really  belongs  here. 

4  Ibid.,  p.  28.  5  Cp.  ibid.,  p.  24,  and  above,  vol.  iii.,  p.  437. 

6  Dietrich  to  Melanchthon,  June  30,  1530,  "  Corp.  ref.,"  2,  p.  159. 
Cp.  vol.  iii.,  p.  162,  his  prayer  for  F.  Myconius  who  was  sick,  which 
concludes  :  "  My  will  be  done.  Amen." 


tells  us,  that,  in  those  anxious  days,  Luther's  conversations 
concerning  God  and  his  hopes  for  the  future  bore  an  even  deeper 
stamp  than  usual  of  sincerity  and  depth  of  feeling.  Dietrich  was 
one  of  Luther's  most  passionately  devoted  pupils. 

"  Ah,  prayer  can  do  much,"  such  are  Luther's  words  in  one  of 
the  numerous  passages  of  the  Table-Talk,  where  he  recommends 
its  use.  "  By  prayer  many  are  saved,  even  now,  just  as  we 
ourselves  prayed  Philip  back  to  life."1 

"  It  is  impossible,"  he  says,  "  that  God  should  not  answer  the 
prayer  of  faith  ;  that  He  does  not  always  do  so  is  another  matter. 
God  does  not  give  according  to  a  prescribed  measure,  but  heaped 
up  and  shaken  down,  as  He  says.  .  .  .  Hence  James  says  (v.  16)  : 
'  Pray  one  for  another,'  etc.  '  The  continual  prayer  of  a  just  man 
availeth  much.'  That  is  one  of  the  best  verses  in  his  Epistle. 
Prayer  is  a  powerful  thing."2 

Anyone  who  has  followed  Luther's  development  and 
understands  his  character  will  know  where  to  find  the  key 
to  these  remarkable,  and  at  first  sight  puzzling,  declarations 
of  trust  in  God  and  zeal  in  prayer. 

When  once  the  herald  of  the  new  religion  had  contrived 
to  persuade  himself  of  his  Divine  call,  such  blindly  confident 
prayer  and  trust  in  God  no  longer  involve  anything  wonder 
ful.  His  utterances,  undoubtedly,  have  a  good  side,  for 
instance,  his  frank  admission  of  his  weakness,  of  his  want  of 
virtue  and  of  the  parlous  condition  of  his  cause,  should  God 
forsake  it  All  his  difficulties  he  casts  into  the  lap  of  the 
Almighty  and  of  Christ,  in  the  true  Divine  sonship  of  whom 
he  declares  he  believes  firmly.  It  must,  however,  strike 
anyone  who  examines  his  prayers  that  he  never  once 
expresses  the  idea  which  should  accompany  all  true  prayer, 
viz.  resignation  into  the  hands  of  God  and  entire  willingness 
to  follow  Him,  to  go  forward,  or  turn  back  whithersoever 
God  wills  ;  never  do  we  find  him  imploring  light  so  as  to 
know  whether  the  course  he  is  pursuing  and  the  work  he 
has  undertaken  is  indeed  right  and  pleasing  to  God.  On  the 
contrary,  in  his  prayers,  in  his  thoughts  and  amidst  all  his 
inner  conflicts,  he  resolutely  sets  aside  as  out  of  the  question 
any  idea  of  changing  the  religious  attitude  he  has  once 
assumed.3  All  his  striving  is  directed  towards  this  one  end, 
viz.  that  God  will  vouchsafe  to  further  his  cause  and  grant 
him  victory.  He,  as  it  were,  foists  his  cause  on  Heaven. 

1  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  315.  2  Ibid. 

3  For  more  on  this  subject  see  vol.  v.,  xxxii.,  5.  We  see  this  even  in 
his  prayers  at  the  Wartburg. 

278          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

Hence  there  is  lacking  a  property  imperatively  demanded  by 
prayer,  viz.  that  holy  indifference  and  readiness  to  serve 
God  in  the  way  pleasing  to  Him  to  which  the  Psalmist 
alludes  when  he  says  :  "  Teach  me  to  do  Thy  Will,  O  Lord." 

The  dominating  idea  which  both  animates  his  confidence 
and  gives  it  its  peculiar  stamp,  also  furnishes  him  with  a 
sword  against  the  Papacy,  with  which  he  lays  about  him 
all  the  more  vigorously  the  more  fervently  he  prays.  In 
praying  he  blows  into  a  flame  his  hatred  of  all  who  stand  up 
for  the  ancient  Church  ;  in  his  prayers  he  seems  to  find  all 
the  monstrous  accusations  he  intends  to  hurl  against  her. 
Yet  he  himself  elsewhere  reminds  his  hearers,  that,  as  a 
preparation  for  prayer,  they  must  put  away  all  bad  feeling, 
since  our  Lord  warns  the  man  who  is  at  variance  with  his 
brother  first  to  be  reconciled  to  him  before  coming  with 
his  offering.  Luther  also  impresses  on  the  monks  and  clergy 
that  they  must  not  pray  for  what  is  displeasing  to  God  .  .  . 
for  instance,  for  strength  to  fulfil  their  obligation  of  celibacy 
or  their  vows. — Might  they  not  justly  have  retorted  that  he, 
too,  should  not  insist  so  blindly  that  God  should  establish 
his  work?  And  might  not  the  fanatics  and  Anabaptists 
have  urged  a  tu  quoque  against  him  when  he  accused 
them  of  spiritual  pride  and  blind  presumption  because  of 
their  fervent  prayers  ? 

We  shall  not  go  out  of  our  way  to  repeat  again  what  we 
have  already  said  of  his  pseudo-mysticism.  But  in  order 
to  understand  rightly  Luther's  prayers  and  trustfulness, 
so  frequently  reminiscent  of  the  best  men  of  the  Catholic 
past,  it  is  necessary  to  bear  in  mind  his  peculiar  mystic 

Other  Personal  Traits.     His  Family  Life. 

Luther  was  able  to  combine  in  a  remarkable  manner  his 
pseudo-mysticism  with  practical  and  sober  common  sense. 

Where  it  is  not  a  question  of  his  Divine  mission,  of  the 
rights  of  the  new  Evangel  or  of  politics- — of  which  by  nature 
he  was  unfitted  to  judge — we  usually  find  him  eminently 
practical  in  his  views.  His  intercourse  with  others  was 
characterised  by  simplicity  and  directness,  and  the  tone  of 
his  conversation  was  both  vigorous  and  original.  It  was 
most  fortunate  for  him  that  his  practical  insight  into  things 
so  soon  enabled  him  to  detect  the  exaggeration  and  peril  of 


the  movement  set  on  foot  by  the  fanatics.  Had  he  been  as 
incautious  as  they,  the  State  authorities  would  soon  have 
crushed  his  plans.  This  he  clearly  perceived  from  the  very 
outset  of  the  movement.  Something  similar,  though  on  a 
smaller  scale,  happened  later  in  the  case  of  the  Antinomians. 
Luther  was  opposed  to  such  extravagance,  and,  when  friendly 
admonition  proved  of  no  avail,  was  perfectly  ready  to  resort 
to  force.  Whether,  from  his  own  standpoint,  he  was  in  a 
position  to  set  matters  straight  in  the  case  of  either  of  the 
two  movements  is  another  question  ;  the  truth  is  that  his 
standpoint  had  suspiciously  much  in  common  with  both. 
At  any  rate  his  encounter  with  the  fanatics  taught  him  to 
lay  much  less  stress  than  formerly  on  the  "  Spirit,"  and  to 
insist  more  on  the  outward  Word  and  the  preaching  of  the 
"  Evangel." 

It  must  also  be  noted,  that,  though  accustomed  to  go 
forward  bravely  and  beat  down  all  difficulties  by  main 
strength,  yet  in  many  instances  he  was  quite  open  to 
accommodate  himself  to  circumstances,  and  to  yield  in  the 
interests  of  his  cause,  displaying  likewise  considerable 
ingenuity  in  the  choice  of  the  means  to  be  employed.  We 
have  already  had  occasion  more  than  once  to  see  that  he  was 
by  no  means  deficient  in  the  wisdom  of  the  serpent.  He 
knew  how  to  give  favourably  disposed  Princes  astute  advice, 
particularly  as  to  how  they  might  best  encourage  and 
promote  the  new  Church  system.  To  settle  their  quarrels 
and  to  restore  concord  among  them  he  had  recourse  some 
times  to  fiery  and  even  gross  language,  sometimes  to  more 
diplomatic  measures.  When  the  Elector  and  the  Duke  of 
Saxony  became  estranged  by  the  Wurzen  quarrel  Luther 
frankly  advised  the  former  to  give  way,  and  jestingly  added 
that  sometimes  there  might  be  good  reason  to  "  light  a 
couple  of  tapers  at  the  devil's  altar." 

He  did  not,  however,  possess  any  talent  as  an  organiser 
and  was,  generally  speaking,  a  very  imperfect  judge  of  the 
social  conditions  of  his  time.  (See  vol.  vi.,  xxxv.) 

Heinrich  Bohmer  remarks  justly  :  "  Luther  was  no 
organiser.  Not  that  he  was  devoid  of  interest  in  or  compre 
hension  for  the  practical  needs  of  life.  He  was  neither 
a  secluded  scholar  nor  a  stiff-necked  pedant.  .  .  .  His 
practical  vein,  though  strong  enough  to  enable  him  readily 
to  detect  the  weak  spot  in  the  proposals  and  creations  of 

280          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

others,  was,  however,  not  equal  to  any  independent,  creative 
and  efficient  action.  However  bold,  energetic  and  original 
as  a  thinker  and  writer,  as  an  organiser  he  was  clumsy, 
diffident  and  poor  in  ideas.  In  this  domain  he  is  entirely 
lacking  in  initiative,  decision  and,  above  all,  in  any  theory 
he  could  call  his  own."  "  His  regulations  for  public 
worsliip  are  no  new  creation  but,  more  often  than  not, 
merely  the  old,  Catholic  ones,  reduced  and  arranged  to 
meet  the  needs  of  the  evangelical  congregation.  .  .  .  Where 
he  is  original  he  not  seldom  ceases  to  be  practical.  For 
instance,  his  extraordinary  proposal  that  the  Latin  service 
should  be  retained  for  the  benefit  and  edification  of  those 
familiar  with  the  language,  and  his  regret  that  it  was  no 
longer  possible  to  arrange  a  service  in  Greek  or  Hebrew,  can 
scarcely  be  characterised  as  anything  but  a  professor's 

His  domestic  life,  owing  to  the  simplicity,  frugality  and 
industry  which  reigned  there,  presents  the  picture  of  an 
unpretentious  family  home.2 

With  Catherine  Bora  and  the  children  she  bore  him,  he 

1  "  Luther  im  Lichte  der  neueren  Forschung,"1  p.   130  f.     In  the 
second  edition  the  closing  chapter  containing  these  passages  is  omitted. 
The  comparison  with  Calvin  made  by  Bohmer  in  this  same  chapter 
on  Luther's  talent  for  organisation,  is  also  worthy  of  notice.      "  At 
that  time  Luther  hardly  had  his  equal  as  pastor,  preacher  and  writer, 
but,  unlike  Calvin,  he  was  no  born  organiser  or  church-founder.   Hence, 
as  soon  as  he  was  confronted  with  the  great  problem  how  to  organise 
the  evangelical  movement  now  becoming  more  and  more  powerful,  he 
ceased  to  be  the  one  leader  and  commander  of  the  Reformation.     It  is 
true  he  always  remained  the  supreme  authority  to  his  own  followers  ; 
he  reigned  indeed,  but  did  not  govern  ;  he  no  longer  inspired,  instructed 
or  guided  his  fellow-workers  individually.     In  this  respect,  also,  Calvin 
was  his  exact  opposite.     His  position  at  the  outset  was  incomparably 
more  humble  than  that  of  Luther.    Yet  his  reputation  grew  constantly, 
till  Church  and  State  in  Geneva  unhesitatingly  obeyed  him,  whilst  his 
sphere  of  action  went  on  extending  till  his  very  death,  till  finally  it 
embraced  the  greater  part  of  Western  Europe  "  (p.   131  f.).     "  Down 
to  the  year  1689,  nay,  down  to  the  19th  century,  the  nations  of  the 
West  were  still  engaged  in  the  solution  of  the  political  problems  with 
which  Luther's  reform  had  confronted  them.     For  these  Luther  him 
self  had  but  slight  comprehension.      If  anything,   he  rendered  their 
solution  more  difficult.     He,  however,  took  more  interest  in  the  legal 
reforms  which  had  become  necessary  in  consequence  of  his  under 
taking  "  (p.  136). 

2  "  Luther's  domestic  life  displays,  as  a  whole,  a  not  unpleasant 
picture,  and  its  description  would  form  the  kindliest  portion  of  a  life 
which  really  does  not  offer  much  that  is  pleasing."    Thus  Georg  Evers, 
"  Martin  Luther,"  6,  p.  1. 

HIS   LOVE   FOR   HIS   WIFE  281 

led — apart  from  the  disturbances  arising  from  his  outward 
controversies  and  inward  combats — a  regular  life  conducive 
to  his  labours.  His  relations  with  his  life's  partner,  who  was 
absorbed  in  the  management  of  the  little  household,  were, 
so  it  would  appear,  never  seriously  disturbed  ;  he  was  as 
devoted  to  her  as  she  was  to  him,  striving  as  she  did  to  serve 
him  and  to  lighten  his  cares.  As  to  her  failings,  viz.  a 
certain  haughtiness  and  masterfulness,  he  winked  at  them. 

In  his  will  dated  Jan.  6,  1542,  he  gives,  as  follows,  his  reason 
for  leaving  everything  to  his  "  beloved  and  faithful  wife 
Catherine  "  :  "  I  do  this  first  because  she,  as  a  pious,  faithful  and 
honourable  wife,  has  always  held  me  dear  and  in  honour  and,  by 
God's  blessing,  bore  me  and  brought  up  five  children,  who  are 
still  alive  and  whom  may  God  long  preserve."1 

Incidentally  he  praises  her  complacency  and  says  that  she 
had  served  him  not  only  like  a  wife  but  like  a  maid.  It  is  true, 
however,  he  says  elsewhere  :  "  Had  I  to  marry  another,  I  should 
hew  myself  an  obedient  wife  out  of  stone,  for  I  despair  of  any 
woman's  obedience."2 

His  last  letters  to  Bora  attest  great  mutual  confidence,  even 
though  he  does  just  hint  in  his  usual  joking  way  at  their  common 
faults  :  "I  think,  that,  had  you  been  here,  you  would  also  have 
advised  us  to  do  this,  so  that  then  for  once  we  should  have 
followed  your  advice."  "  To  my  well-beloved  housewife 
Catherine  Lutheress,  Doctoress,  Zulsdorferess,  pork-butcheress 
and  whatever  else  she  may  be.  Grace  to  you  and  peace  in  Christ 
and  my  poor  old  love.  ...  I  commend  to  God's  keeping  you  and 
all  the  household ;  greet  all  the  guests.  [Signed]  M.  L.,  your  old 
sweetheart."  Writing  to  his  wife  who  was  so  anxious  about  him, 
he  says  :  "  You  want  to  undertake  the  care  of  your  God  just  as 
though  He  were  not  almighty  and  able  to  create  ten  Dr.  Martins. 
.  .  .  Let  Master  Philip  read  this  letter,  for  I  have  not  had  time 
to  write  to  him  ;  console  yourself  with  this,  that  I  would  be  with 
you  were  I  able,  as  you  know,  and  as  he  perhaps  also  knows  from 
experience  with  his  own  wife,  and  understands  it  all  perfectly." 
"  We  are  very  grateful  to  you  for  your  great  anxiety  that  pre 
vents  you  from  sleeping.  .  .  .  Do  you  pray  and  leave  the  rest  to 
God.  It  is  written  :  '  Cast  thy  care  upon  the  Lord,  and  He  shall 
sustain  thee  '  (Psalm  lv.)."3 

His  humour  helped  to  tide  him  over  any  minor  annoyances 
for  which  Catherine  and  the  inmates  of  his  house  were  respon 
sible.  He  preferred  to  oppose  the  shield  of  jest  to  Catherine's 
obstinacy,  to  her  feminine  desire  to  interfere  in  business  that  was 
not  hers,  as  well  as  to  her  jealous  rule  in  matters  pertaining  to  the 
management  of  the  household.  When  in  his  letters  he  addresses 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  56,  p.  2  f.          2  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  487. 
3  Letters   of  Jan.    25   to   Feb.    14,    1546,    "Werke,"   Erl.   ed.,    56, 
pp.  149,  151-154. 

282          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

her  as  "  Lord  Katey,"  and  so  forth,  his  object  was  to  reprove  her 
gently  for  that  imperiousness  under  which  he  himself  had  some 
times  to  smart.  We  learn  from  outside  sources  that  her  inter 
ference  was  particularly  troublesome  to  others  at  the  time  of 
Luther's  conflict  with  the  lawyers  on  the  validity  of  clandestine 
marriages,  when  his  wife's  friendly  interest  in  certain  couples 
concerned  displayed  itself  in  loud  and  over-zealous  advocacy  of 
Luther's  view  of  the  question.  It  was  then  that  Cruciger,  the 
Wittenberg  theologian,  described  her  as  the  "  firebrand  in 
Luther's  house."1 

He  was  not  merely  unable  to  accustom  himself  to  the  humdrum 
occupations  connected  with  household  management,  but  the 
annoyance  it  entailed  was  so  repugnant  to  him  that  in  1538  he 
dissuaded  a  preacher  who  wished  to  marry  a  second  time,  telling 
him  that  "  the  management  of  a  family  is  in  our  day  the  most 
troublesome  thing  on  earth,  so  that,  knowing  the  wickedness  of 
the  world,  were  I  a  young  man  I  would  rather  die  than  again 
become  a  married  man,  even  though,  after  my  Katey,  a  queen 
were  offered  me  in  marriage."2  Evidently  he  must  have  found 
something  to  regret. 

Both  took  their  share  in  the  troublesome  and  unpre 
tentious  work  of  educating  and  instructing  the  children. 
Luther  rightly  extols  such  labours  as  great  and  meritorious 
in  God's  sight,  just  as  he  frequently  describes  the  seemingly 
lowly  callings,  which,  in  the  eyes  of  the  world,  are  of  no 
account,  e.g.  marriage,  as  ennobled  by  God  when  performed 
by  pious  Christians  in  accordance  with  His  Will  and  to  the 
benefit  of  body  and  soul.  (Above,  p.  142  f.) 

By  means  of  a  fairly  well-ordered  division  of  the  day  he 
found  time,  in  the  intervals  of  the  demands  made  by  his 
domestic  duties,  to  devote  long  hours  to  the  multifarious  and 
exhausting  labours  of  which  we  know  something.  Self- 
denial  in  the  interests  of  the  cause  he  had  espoused,  re 
nunciation  of  ease  and  enjoyment  so  as  better  to  serve  an 
end  for  which  he  was  impassioned,  disregard  even  of  the 
pressing  claims  of  health — all  this  is  not  easily  to  be  matched 
in  any  other  writer  of  eminence  and  talent  occupying  so 
historic  a  position  in  public  life.  Luther,  plagued  as  he  was 
by  extraneous  difficulties,  with  his  professorship,  his  pulpit 
and  his  care  for  souls,  seemed  to  revolve  the  wheel  of  time. 
Without  unheard-of  energy  and  a  fiery,  overmastering 

"  Corp.  ref.,"  5,  p.  314  :  "  Fax  domestica."  The  cause  of  Caspar 
Beier,  the  clandestinely  married  student,  with  regard  to  which  she 
fanned  the  flames  of  Luther's  anger,  was,  according  to  Cruciger,  "  none 
of  the  best,"  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  pp.  687,  571,  n.  1,  and  p.  569  f. 

2  To  Bernard  v.  Dolen,  Aug.  31,  1538,  "  Briefwechsel,"  11,  p.  398. 


enthusiasm  for  the  cause  his  achievements  would  indeed  be 
incomprehensible . 

The  Catholic,  however,  when  contemplating  these  traits 
so  far  as  they  redound  to  Luther's  credit  must  deeply 
regret,  that  such  energy  was  not  employed  in  a  well-ordered 
amelioration  of  the  ecclesiastical  system  on  the  basis  of  the 
true  Christian  doctrine  and  in  harmony  with  the  authority 
divinely  appointed.  If  he  considers  these  favourable  sides 
of  Luther's  character  with  befitting  broad-mindedness,  his 
grief  can  only  deepen  at  the  action,  characterised  by  such 
perversity  and  contradiction,  by  which  Luther  sought 
utterly  to  destroy  the  existing  Church  and  her  faith  as 
revealed  and  handed  down. 


ins  SOUL 

1.  Luther's  Anger.     His  Attitude  towards  the  Jews,  the 
Lawyers  and  the  Princes 

WHAT  above  all  strikes  one  in  Luther's  mode  of  controversy 
is  his  utter  unrestraint  in  his  scolding  and  abuse.  Particu 
larly  remarkable,  especially  in  his  later  years,  is  the  language 
which  he  has  in  readiness  for  two  groups  of  foes,  viz.  for 
Jews  and  Lawyers  ;  then,  again,  we  have  the  invective 
which,  throughout  his  career,  he  was  fond  of  hurling  at  such 
Princes  and  scholars  as  did  not  submit  to  his  teaching. 

As,  in  what  follows,  and  in  studying  the  psychology  of  his 
anti-Papal  abuse,  we  shall  have  again  occasion  to  encounter 
unpleasant  passages,  we  may  well  make  our  own  the  words 
of  Sir  Thomas  More  in  his  "  Responsio  ad  convitia  Lutheri," 
where  he  trounces  Luther  for  his  handling  of  Henry  VIII.  : 
"  The  gentle  reader  must  forgive  me  if  much  that  occurs 
offends  his  feelings.  Nothing  has  been  more  painful  to 'me 
than  to  be  compelled  to  pour  such  things  into  decent  ears. 
The  only  other  alternative  would,  however,  have  been  to 
leave  the  unclean  book  untouched."1 

The  Jews. 

In  his  earlier  days  Luther  had  been  more  friendly  towards 
the  Jews,  and  had  even  cherished  the  childish  hope  that 
many  of  them  would  embrace  the  new  Evangel  and  help 
him  in  his  warfare  against  the  Papal  Antichrist.  When  this 
failed  to  come  about  Luther  became  more  and  more  angered 
with  their  blasphemy  against  Christ,  their  art  of  seducing 
the  faithful  and  their  cunning  literary  attacks  on  Christian 
doctrine.  He  was  also  greatly  vexed  because  his  Elector,  in 
spite  of  having,  in  1536,  ordered  all  Jews  to  leave  the  country, 
1  "  Opp.,"  Lovanii,  1560,  f.  116'. 

ON   THE   JEWS  285 

nevertheless,  in  1538,  granted  them  a  conditional  permit  to 
travel  through  it ;  he  was  still  more  exasperated  with 
Ferdinand  the  German  King  who  had  curtailed  the  dis 
abilities  of  the  Jews.  Luther's  opinion  was  that  the  only 
thing  to  do  was  to  break  their  pride  ;  he  now  relinquished 
all  hope  of  convincing  any  large  number  of  them  of  the 
truth  of  Christianity  ;  even  the  biblical  statements,  accord 
ing  to  which  the  Jews  were  to  be  converted  before  the  end 
of  the  world,  appeared  to  him  to  have  been  shorn  of  their 

Hence  Luther  was,  above  all,  desirous  of  proving  to  the 
faithful  that  the  objections  brought  forward  by  the  Jews 
against  Christian  doctrine  and  their  interpretation  of  the 
Old  Testament  so  as  to  exclude  the  Christian  Messias  were 
all  wrong.  This  he  did  in  three  writings  which  followed  each 
other  at  short  intervals  :  "  Von  den  Jiiden  und  jren  Liigen," 
"  Vom  Schem  Hamphoras,"  both  dating  from  1542,  and 
"  Von  den  letzten  Worten  Davids  "  (1543).  Owing  to  his 
indignation  these  writings  are  no  mere  works  of  instruction, 
but  in  parts  are  crammed  with  libel  and  scurrilous  abuse.2 

In  the  first  of  these  tracts,  for  instance,  he  voices  as  follows 
his  opinion  of  the  religious  learning  of  the  Hebrews  :  "  This 
passage  [the  Ten  Commandments]  is  far  above  the  comprehension 
of  the  blind  and  hardened  Jews,  and  to  discourse  to  them  on  it 
would  be  as  useless  as  preaching  the  Gospel  to  a  pig.  They 
cannot  grasp  the  nature  of  God's  law,  much  less  do  they  know 
how  to  keep  it."  "  Their  boast  of  following  the  external  Mosaic 
ordinances  whilst  disobeying  the  Ten  Commandments,  fits  the 
Jews  just  as  well  as  ornaments  do  an  evil  woman  "  ;  "  yet  clothes, 
adornments,  garlands,  jewels  would  serve  far  better  to  deck 
the  sow  that  wallows  in  the  mire  than  a  strumpet."3 

One  point  which  well  illustrates  his  anti-Semitism  is  the 
Talmud-Bible  he  invents  as  best  suited  to  them  :  "  That  Bible 
only  should  you  explore  which  lies  concealed  beneath  the  sow's 
tail  ;  the  letters  that  drop  from  it  you  are  free  to  eat  and  drink  ; 
that  is  the  best  Bible  for  prophets  who  trample  under  foot  and 
rend  in  so  swinish  a  manner  the  Word  of  the  Divine  Majesty 
which  ought  to  be  listened  to  with  all  respect,  with  trembling 
and  with  joy."  "  Do  they  fancy  that  we  are  clods  and  wooden 
blocks  like  themselves,  the  rude,  ignorant  donkeys  ?  .  .  .  Hence, 
gentle  Christian,  beware  of  the  Jews,  for  this  book  will  show  you 
that  God's  anger  has  delivered  them  over  to  the  devil."4 

1  Mathesius,  "  Tischreden,"  p.  316. 

2  Cp.   Reinhold   Lewin,    "  Luthers   Stellung  zu  den  Jiiden  "    ("  N. 
Stud,  zur  Gesch.  der  Theol.  und  Kirche,"  10),  1911. 

3  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  32,  p.  135.  4  Ibid.,  p.  177  f. 

286         LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

The  figure  of  the  sow's  tail  pleased  him  so  well'  that  he  again 
used  it  later  in  the  same  year  in  his  "  Vom  Schem  Hamphoras." 
There  he  alludes  to  the  piece  of  sculpture  which  had  originally 
supplied  him  with  the  idea  :  "  Here,  at  Wittenberg,  outside  our 
parish  church  there  is  a  sow  chiselled  in  the  stone  ;  under  her 
are  piglets  and  little  Jews  all  sucking  ;  behind  the  sow  stands  a 
Rabbi,  who  lifts,  with  his  right  hand  the  sow's  hind  leg  and  with 
his  left  her  tail,  and  is  intently  engaged  poring  over  the  Talmud 
under  the  sow's  tail,  as  though  he  wished  to  read  and  bring  to 
light  something  especially  clever.  That  is  a  real  image  of  Schem 
Hamphoras.  .  .  .  For  of  the  sham  wise  man  we  Germans  say  : 
Where  did  he  read  that  ?  To  speak  coarsely,  in  the  rear  parts 
of  a  sow."1 

The  "  devil  "  also  is  drawn  into  the  fray  the  better  to  enable 
Luther  to  vent  his  ire  against  the  Jews.  At  the  end  of  the 
passage  just  quoted  he  says  :  "  For  the  devil  has  entered  into 
the  Jews  and  holds  them  captive  so  that  perforce  they  do  his  will, 
as  St.  Paul  says,  mocking,  defaming,  abusing  and  cursing  God 
and  everything  that  is  His.  .  .  .  The  devil  plays  with  them  to 
their  eternal  damnation."2 — And  elsewhere:  "Verily  a  hope 
less,  wicked,  venomous  and  devilish  thing  is  the  existence  of 
these  Jews,  who  for  fourteen  hundred  years  have  been,  and  still 
are,  our  pest,  torment  and  misfortune.  In  fine,  they  are  just 
devils  and  nothing  more,  with  no  feeling  of  humanity  for  us 
heathen.  This  they  learn  from  their  Rabbis  in  those  devils' 
aeries  which  are  their  schools."3 — "  They  are  a  brood  of  vipers 
and  the  children  of  the  devil,  and  are  as  kindly  disposed  to  us  as 
is  the  devil  their  father."4 — "  The  Turk  and  the  other  heathen  do 
not  suffer  from  them  what  we  Christians  do  from  these  malignant 
snakes  and  imps.  .  .  .  Whoever  would  like  to  cherish  such 
adders  and  puny  devils — who  are  the  worst  enemies  of  Christ  and 
of  us  all — to  befriend  them  and  do  them  honour  simply  in  order 
to  be  cheated,  plundered,  robbed,  disgraced  and  forced  to  howl 
and  curse  and  suffer  every  kind  of  evil,  to  him  I  would  commend 
these  Jews.  And  if  this  be  not  enough  let  him  tell  the  Jew  to  use 
his  mouth  as  a  privy,  or  else  crawl  into  the  Jew's  hind  parts  and 
there  worship  the  holy  thing,  so  as  afterwards  to  be  able  to  boast 
of  having  been  merciful,  and  of  having  helped  the  devil  and  his 
progeny  to  blaspheme  our  dear  Lord."5  The  last  clause  would 
appear  to  have  been  aimed  at  the  Counts  of  Mansfeld,  who  had 
allowed  a  large  number  of  Jews  to  settle  in  Eisleben,  Luther's 

The  temporal  happiness  which  the  Jews  looked  for  under  the 
reign  of  their  Messias,  Luther  graphically  compares  to  the  felicity 
of  a  sow  :  "  For  the  sow  lies  as  it  were  on  a  feather-bed  whether 
in  the  street  or  on  the  manure-heap  ;  she  rests  secure,  grunts 
contentedly,  sleeps  soundly,  fears  neither  lord  nor  king,  neither 
death  nor  hell,  neither  devil  nor  Divine  anger.  .  .  .  She  has  no 
thought  of  death  until  it  is  upon  her.  ...  Of  what  use  would 

1   "Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  32,  p.  298.  2  Ibid. 

3  Ibid.,  p.  242.  *  Ibid.,  p.  244  f.  *  Ibid.,  p.  244  f. 

THE   METAPHOR   OF   THE   PIG       287 

the  Jews'  Messias  be  to  me  if  he  could  not  help  poor  me  against 
this  great  and  horrible  dread  and  misfortune  [the  fear  of  death], 
nor  make  my  life  a  tenth  part  as  happy  as  that  of  the  sow  ?  I 
would  much  rather  say  :  Dear  God  Almighty,  keep  Your  Messias 
for  Yourself,  or  give  him  to  those  who  want  him  ;  as  for  me, 
change  me  into  a  sow.  For  it  is  better  to  be  a  live  pig  than  a  man 
who  is  everlastingly  dying."1 

Such  passages  as  the  above  are  frequently  to  be  met  with 
in  Luther's  writings  against  the  Jews.  In  them  his  object 
plainly  was  to  confute  the  misinterpretation  of  the  Bible  and 
the  scoffing  objections  to  which  Jewish  scholars  were  given. 
Yet  so  utterly  ungovernable  was  the  author's  passion  that 
it  spoiled  the  execution  of  his  noble  task.  He  scarcely  knew 
how  to  conduct  a  controversy  without  introducing  sows, 
devils  and  such  like. 

Was  it  really  to  Luther's  credit  that  the  sty  should  loom 
so  large  in  his  struggle  with  his  foes  ? 

Duke  George  he  scolds  as  the  "  Dresden  pig,"  and  Dr.  Eck  as 
"  Pig-Eck  "  ;  the  latter  Luther  promises  to  answer  in  such  a 
way  "that  the  sow's  belly  shall  not  be  too  much  inflated."2 
The  Bishops  of  the  Council  of  Constance  who  burnt  Hus  are 
"  boars  "  ;  the  "  bristles  of  their  backs  rise  on  end  and  they 
whet  their  snouts."3  Erasmus  "carries  within  him  a  sow  from 
the  herd  of  Epicurus."4  The  learned  Catholics  of  the  Universities 
are  hogs  and  donkeys  decked  out  in  finery,  whom  God  has  sent 
to  punish  us  ;  these  "  devils'  masks,  the  monks  and  learned 
spectres,  from  the  Schools  we  have  endowed  with  such  huge 
wealth,  many  of  the  doctors,  preachers,  masters,  priests  and 
friars  are  big,  coarse,  corpulent  donkeys,  decked  out  with  hoods 
red  and  brown,  like  the  market  sow  in  her  glass  beads  and  tinsel 

The  same  simile  is,  of  course,  employed  even  more  frequently 
of  the  peasants.  "  To-day  the  peasants  are  the  merest  hogs, 
whilst  the  people  of  position,  who  once  prided  themselves  on 
being  bucks,  are  beginning  to  copy  them."6 — The  Papists  have 
"  stamped  the  married  state  under  foot  "  ;  their  clergy  are 
"  like  pigs  in  the  fattening-pen,"  "  they  wallow  in  filth  like  the 
pig  in  his  sty."7 — The  Papists  are  fed  up  by  their  literary  men, 
as  befits  such  pigs  as  they.  "  Eat,  piggies,  eat  !  This  is  good  for 
you."8 — We  Germans  are  "  hopeless  pigs."9 

1  "Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  32,  p.  261.     Cp.  vol.,  iii.,  p.  289  f. 

2  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  7,  p.  271  ;   Erl.  ed.,  27,  p.  206. 

3  Ibid.,  Erl.  ed.,  65,  p.  79.  4  See  vol.  ii.,  p.  280. 

5  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  15,  p.  50  f.  ;   Erl.  ed.,  22,  p.  196. 

6  Cordatus,  "  Tagebuch,"  p.  137. 

7  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  19,  p.  306  ;   Erl.  ed.,  40,  p.  250  f. 

8  To  Caspar  Miiller,  March  18,  1535  ;    "  Brief wechsel,"   10,  p.   137. 

9  "  Werke,"  Weim.  ed.,  23,  p.  149  ;  Erl.  ed.,  30,  p.  68.     See  above, 
vol.  iii.,  93  f. 

288          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

Henry  of  Brunswick  is  "as  expert  in  Holy  Writ  as  a  sow  is  on 
the  harp."  Let  him  and  his  Papists  confess  that  they  are 
"verily  the  devil's  whore-church."1  "You  should  not  write  a 
book,"  Luther  tells  him,  "  until  you  have  heard  an  old  sow 

s ;  then  you  should  open  your  jaws  and  say  :  Thank  you, 

lovely  nightingale,  now  I  have  the  text  I  want.  Stick  to  it  ;  it 
will  look  fine  printed  in  a  book  against  the  Scripturists  and  the 
Elector  ;  but  have  it  done  at  Wolfenbiittel.  Oh,  how  they  will 
have  to  hold  their  noses  !  " 

Another  favourite  image,  which  usually  accompanies  the  sow, 
is  provided  by  the  donkey.  Of  Clement  VII.  and  one  of  his  Bulls 
Luther  says  :  "  The  donkey  pitched  his  bray  too  high  and 
thought  the  Germans  would  not  notice  it."3  Of  Emser  and  the 
Catholic  Professors  he  writes  :  "  Were  I  ignorant  of  logic  and 
philosophy  you  rude  asses  would  be  after  setting  yourselves  up 
as  logicians  and  philosophers,  though  you  know  as  much  about 
the  business  as  a  donkey  does  about  music."4  Of  Alveld  the 
Franciscan  he  says  :  "  The  donkey  does  not  understand  music, 
he  must  rather  be  given  thistles."5  The  fanatics  too,  naturally, 
could  not  expect  to  escape.  All  that  Luther  says  of  heavenly 
things  is  wasted  upon  them.  "  They  understand  it  as  little  as 
the  donkey  does  the  Psalter."6 

The  devil,  however,  plays  the  chief  part.  Luther's  con 
sidered  judgment  on  the  Zwinglians,  for  instance,  is,  that 
they  are  "  soul-cannibals  and  soul-assassins,"  are  "  en- 
deviled,  devilish,  yea,  ultra-devilish  and  possessed  of 
blasphemous  hearts  and  lying  lips." 7 

The  Lawyers. 

Luther's  aversion  for  the  "  Jurists "  grew  yearly  more 
intense.  His  chief  complaint  against  them  was  that  they 
kept  to  the  Canon  Law  and  put  hindrances  in  his  way. 
Their  standpoint,  however,  as  regards  Canon  Law  was  not 
without  justification.  "  Any  downright  abrogation  of  Canon 
Law  as  a  whole  was  out  of  the  question.  The  law  as  then 
practised,  not  only  in  the  ecclesiastical  but  even  in  the 
secular  courts,  was  too  much  bound  up  with  Canon  Law  ; 
when  it  was  discarded,  for  instance,  in  the  matrimonial 
cases,  dire  legal  complications  threatened  throughout  the 
whole  of  the  German  Empire."8  To  this  Luther's  eyes  were 
not  sufficiently  open. 

1  "  Werke,"  Erl.  ed.,  262,  p.  56  f. 

2  Ibid.,  p.  86.  3  Ibid.,  251,  p.  192. 

4  Ibid.,  Weim.  ed.,  7,  p.  676  ;    Erl.  ed.,  27,  p.  292. 

5  Ibid.,  6,  p.  302  =  27,  p.  110.          6  Ibid.,  26,  p.  351  =  30,  p.  224. 
7  Ibid.,  Erl.  ed.,  32,  p.  404.  8  Kostlin-Kawerau,  2,  p.  469. 

THE    LAWYERS  289 

His  crusade  against  the  validity  of  clandestine  engage 
ments  which  he  entered  upon  in  opposition  to  his  friend 
and  co-religionist,  Hieronymus  Schurf,  his  colleague  in  the 
faculty  of  jurisprudence  at  the  University  of  Wittenberg, 
was  merely  one  episode  in  his  resistance  to  those  who 
represented  legalism  as  then  established. 

In  another  and  wider  sphere  his  relations  with  those 
lawyers,  who  were  the  advisers  at  the  Court  of  his  Elector 
and  the  other  Princes,  became  more  strained.  This  was 
as  a  result  of  their  having  a  hand  in  the  ordering  of 
Church  business.  Here  again  his  action  was  scarcely  logical, 
for  he  himself,  forced  by  circumstances,  had  handed  over  to 
the  State  the  outward  guidance  of  the  Church  ;  that  the 
statesmen  would  intervene  and  settle  matters  according  to 
their  own  ideas  was  but  natural  ;  and  if  their  way  of  looking 
at  things  failed  to  agree  with  Luther's,  this  was  only  what 
might  have  been  foreseen  all  along. 

In  a  conference  with  Melanchthon,  Amsdorf  and  others  in 
Dec.,  1538,  he  complained  bitterly  of  the  lawyers  and  of  the 
"  misery  of  the  theologians  who  were  attacked  on  all  sides, 
especially  by  the  mighty."  To  Melchior  Kling,  a  lawyer  who 
was  present,  he  said  :  "  You  jurists  have  a  finger  in  this  and  are 
playing  us  tricks  ;  I  advise  you  to  cease  and  come  to  the  assist 
ance  of  the  nobles.  If  the  theologians  fall,  that  will  be  the  end  of 
the  jurists  too."  "  Do  not  worry  us,"  he  repeated,  "  or  you  will 
be  paid  out."  "  Had  he  ten  sons,  he  would  take  mighty  good 
care  that  not  one  was  brought  up  to  be  a  lawyer."  "  You 
jurists  stand  as  much  in  need  of  a  Luther  as  the  theologians 
did."  "  The  lawyer  is  a  foe  of  Christ  ;  he  extols  the  righteous 
ness  of  works.  If  there  should  be  one  amongst  them  who  knows 
better,  he  is  a  wonder,  is  forced  to  beg  his  bread  and  is  shunned 
by  all  the  other  men  of  law."1 

On  questions  affecting  conscience  he  considered  that  he  alone, 
as  theologian  and  leader  of  the  others,  had  a  right  to  decide  ;  yet 
countless  cases  which  came  before  the  courts  touched  upon 
matters  of  conscience.  He  exclaims,  for  instance,  in  1531  :  Must 
not  the  lawyers  come  to  me  to  learn  what  is  really  lawful  ?  "I 
am  the  supreme  judge  of  what  is  lawful  in  the  domain  of 
conscience."  "  If  there  be  a  single  lawyer  in  Germany,  nay,  in 
the  whole  world,  who  understands  what  is  '  lawful  de  jure '  and 
'  lawful  de  facto  '  then  I  am  .  .  .surprised."  The  recorder  adds  : 
"  When  the  Doctor  swears  thus  he  means  it  very  seriously." 
Luther  proceeds  :  "In  fine,  if  the  jurists  don't  crave  forgiveness 

1  "  Colloq.,"  ed.  Bindseil,  2,  p.  289  seq.  The  date,  Dec.  4,  1538, 
must  be  taken  for  what  it  is  worth. 

IV. — U 

290          LUTHER   THE   REFORMER 

and  crawl  humbly  to  the  Evangel,  I  shall  give  them  such  a  doing 
that  they  will  not  know  how  to  escape."1 

Thus  we  can  understand  how,  in  that  same  year  (1531),  when 
representatives  of  the  secular  law  interfered  in  the  ecclesiastical 
affairs  at  Zwickau  against  his  wishes,  he  declared  :  "I  will 
never  have  any  more  dealings  with  those  Zwickau  people,  and  I 
shall  carry  my  resentment  with  me  to  the  grave."  "  If  the 
lawyers  touch  the  Canons  they  will  fly  in  splinters.  ...  I  will 
fling  the  Catechism  into  their  midst  and  so  upset  them  that  they 
won't  know  where  they  are."2  If  they  are  going  to  feed  on  the 
"  filth  of  the  Pope-Ass,"  and  "  to  put  on  their  horns,"  then  he, 
too,  will  put  on  his  and  "  toss  them  till  the  air  resounds  with 
their  howls."  This  from  the  pulpit  on  Feb.  23,  1539.3 

The  Princes. 

With  what  scant  respect  Luther  could  treat  the  Princes  is 
shown  in  his  work  "  Von  welltlicher  Uberkeytt,  wie  weyt 
man  yhr  Gehorsam  schuldig  sey  "  (1523). 4 

Here  he  is  not  attacking  individual  Princes  as  was  the 
case,  for  instance,  in  his  writings  against  King  Henry  of 
England,  Duke  George  of  Saxony  and  Duke  Henry  of 
Brunswick,  hence  there  was  here  no  occasion  for  the  abuse 
with  which  these  polemical  tracts  are  so  brimful.  Here 
Luther  is  dealing  theologically  with  the  relations  which 
should  obtain  between  Princes  and  subjects  and,  according 
to  the  title  and  the  dedicatory  note  to  Johann  of  Saxony, 
professes  to  discuss  calmly  and  judicially  the  respective 
duties  of  both.  Yet,  carried  away  by  vexation,  because  the 
Princes  and  the  nobles  had  not  complied  with  his  request 
in  his  "  An  den  christlichen  Adel  "  that  they  should  rise  in 
a  body  against  Rome,  and  reform  the  Church  as  he  desired, 
he  bitterly  assails  them  as  a  class. 

Even  in  the  opening  lines  all  the  Princes  who,  like  the  Emperor, 
held  fast  to  the  olden  faith  and  sought  to  preserve  their  subjects 
in  it,  were  put  on  a  par  with  "  hair-brained  fellows  "  and  loose 
"  rogues.